OTC Use Statistics

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OTC Medicines Retail Sales

The following is a compilation of known data on over-the-counter (OTC) medicine retail sales. The figures differ depending upon the source and differing definitions as to what constitutes "OTCs."

Year Size in Billions ($)
2020 36.5
2019 35.2
2018 34.1
2017 33.5
2016 35.7
2015 32.8
2014 31.4
2013 29.7
2012 28.9
2011 28.2
2010 30.7
2009 27.5
2008 16.8
2007 16.0
2006 15.3
2005 15.0
2004 14.1
2003 14.2
2002 13.6
2001 15.0
2000 14.7
1999 18.9
1998 17.8
1997 17.4
1996 16.5
1995 15.4 (see note)
1994 13.5
1993 13.3
1992 12.2
1991 10.9
1990 10.3
1989 9.7
1988 9.2
1987 13.3
1986 8.5§
1985 N/A
1984 7.4
1983 6.9
1982 6.2
1981 5.8
1980 5.5
1979 4.9
1978 4.7
1977 4.5*
1976 3.8
1975 3.5
1974 3.3
1973 9.2
1972 3.1
1971 2.9
1970 2.7
1969 2.6
1968 2.4
1967 2.3
1966 2.2
1965 2.0
1964 1.9

 

Sources: The Nielsen Company (1992-2020), "Drug Topics"/Nielsen North America (1988-1991), "Drug Topics" (1982-84), and "Product Marketing" (1964-1981).

NOTE: The 1995 sales figure represents a change in the way Nielsen defined an OTC drug and thus shows a greater increase than for other years. The number is more representative of the true OTC drug market as defined by the Food and Drug Administration. The statistic does not include vitamins/minerals/nutritional supplements.

 


* Due to changes in data collection methods, the actual increase may have been less than indicated.

§ CHPA compilation of data using only OTC product categories represented by the industry—e.g., not all categories of oral health care and topicals, and no vitamins and nutritional supplements.

 The only available data was provided by Kline & Co. for the 1988 FDA/CHPA symposium. It showed $13.3 billion but included vitamins and nutritional supplements.

† Excludes Wal-Mart.

‡ Due to methodology changes (including reporting from Wal-Mart and expanded coverage in club, dollar, and convenience channels), sales figures for 2009 represent a more complete picture of the OTC marketplace versus previous years. 2009 through 2013 totals include all U.S. outlets (food, drug, mass, select club and dollar store retailers, convenience, and military stores). A few categories include a combination of OTC medicines as well as health-related products, which are not classified as drugs by FDA.

Due to methodology changes in 2014, sales figures for 2011-2014 have been updated. These figures no longer include several categories included in 2010 and prior, which caused the figures to decrease.

OTC Sales by Category
OTC Category 2017 (in millions) 2018 (in millions) 2019 (in millions) 2020 (in millions)
Acne $204 $207 $212 $221
Analgesics, External $806 $873 $971 $1,089
Analgesics, Internal (includes other pain products) $4,274 $4,303 $4,332 $4,506
Antidiarrheals $253 $277 $307 $287
Antiperspirants $2,492 $2,574 $2,634 $2,491
Anti-Smoking Products $1,005 $1,012 $1,026 $974
Ear Drop $41 $41 $43 $43
Eczema & Psoriasis $216 $237 $258 $332
Enema $40 $42 $43 $43
Eye Care $1,112 $1,176 $1,272 $1,289
Female Contraceptive $364 $403 $443 $526
Feminine Itch & Yeast Treatment $251 $257 $300 $317
Feminine Hygiene Douches $48 $45 $42 $39
First Aid $1,268 $1,286 $1,317 $1,565
Foot Care $362 $367 $372 $372
Gas Relief $179 $181 $185 $179
Hair Growth Product $117 $119 $117 $114
Hand Sanitizer $191 $214 $207 $1,464
Heartburn $2,115 $2,112 $2,120 $2,161
Hemorrhoid Treatment $226 $234 $234 $238
Jock Itch $58 $58 $57 $56
Laxatives $1,384 $1,401 $1,453 $1,540
Lice Treatments $147 $138 $137 $105
Lip/Oral Treatment $1,141 $1,206 $1,247 $1,117
Motion Sickness $98 $105 $110 $83
Multi-Symptom GI $252 $279 $310 $321
Oral Antiseptics and Rinses $1,466 $1,473 $1,513 $1,603
Petroleum Jelly $98 $103 $107 $113
Sleeping Aid $413 $412 $406 $429
Suncare $1,183 $1,200 $1,236 $1,112
Toothpaste $2,829 $2,901 $3,010 $3,116
Upper Respiratory  $8,886 $8,873 $9,234 $8,656
Total $33,519 $34,109 $35,255 $36,501

Source: The Nielsen Company - total U.S. all outlets (food, drug, mass, select club and dollar store retailers, convenience, and military stores)

Sales are in millions of U.S. dollars. A few categories include a combination of OTC medicines as well as health-related products which are not classified as medicines by the Food and Drug Administration.

OTC Sales in Volume
Category 2017 (in millions) 2018 (in millions) 2019 (in millions) 2020 (in millions)
Acne 31 30 29 29
Analgesics, External 122 126 130 136
Analgesics, Internal (includes other pain products) 783 776 761 751
Antidiarrheals 37 42 47 46
Antiperspirants 629 625 614 546
Anti-Smoking Products 37 37 35 32
Ear Drop 6 6 6 6
Eczema & Psoriasis 24 26 26 32
Enema 14 14 13 13
Eye Care 139 143 146 139
Female Contraceptive 8 9 10 12
Feminine Itch & Yeast Treatment 27 27 29 30
Feminine Hygiene Douches 18 17 16 15
First Aid 340 341 342 412
Foot Care 43 43 43 42
Gas Relief 30 30 30 28
Hair Growth Product 4 4 4 4
Hand Sanitizer 97 107 100 472
Heartburn 287 286 283 275
Hemorrhoid Treatment 32 32 31 30
Jock Itch 7 7 7 7
Laxatives 187 186 186 183
Lice Treatment 11 11 10 8
Lip/Oral Treatment 359 362 354 297
Motion Sickness 19 20 21 16
Multi-Symptom GI 55 56 59 58
Oral Antiseptics and Rinses 325 327 328 325
Petroleum Jelly 38 40 40 40
Sleeping Aid 60 59 57 58
Suncare 144 146 148 131
Toothpaste 809 802 797 752
Upper Respiratory Medicine 1,226 1,200 1,215 1,074
Total 5,948 5,937 5,917 5,999

Source: The Nielsen Company - total U.S. all outlets (food, drug, mass, select club and dollar store retailers, convenience, and military stores). Data does not include online sales.

Volume is in millions of U.S. units. A few categories include a combination of OTC medicines as well as health-related products which are not classified as medicines by the Food and Drug Administration.

OTC Medicine Accessibility

  • As more prescription allergy medicines have switched to OTC, there has been a clear shift toward these more convenient and affordable options. The number of allergy sufferers who use OTCs has gone up from 66 percent in 2009 to 75 percent in 2015.
  • There are a total of 2.9 billion retail trips annually to purchase OTC products. (source: IRI, 2015)
  • On average, U.S. households spend about $338 per year on OTC products. (source: IRI, 2015)
  • OTC medicines provide access 24/7 to conveniently available healthcare options for busy families and caregivers.
  • Nearly seven in ten parents have given their child an OTC medicine late at night to help treat a sudden medical symptom.
  • Research shows that 81 percent of adults use OTC medicines as a first response to minor ailments.
  • The availability of OTC medicines — off the shelf, without a prescription — provides symptomatic relief for an estimated 60 million people who otherwise would not seek treatment.
  • Without affordable and accessible OTCs, underserved populations would depend more heavily on the highest cost medical care for minor ailments.
    • One in four Medicaid patients and one in ten uninsured individuals would seek treatment in an Emergency Department as their first recourse for treatment.
  • U.S. consumers make 26 trips a year to purchase OTC products. They only visit doctors, on average, three times a year.
  • While there are approximately 54,000 pharmacies in the United States, there are more than 750,000 retail outlets that sell OTC products.

OTC Medicine Affordability

OTC medicines provide affordable treatment options for both consumers and the U.S. healthcare system.

  • The availability of OTC medicines creates significant value for the U.S. healthcare system: $146 billion in annual savings relative to alternatives.
    • $94.8 billion in clinical cost savings (avoided doctor's office visits and diagnostic testing); and
    • $51.6 billion in drug cost savings (lower priced OTCs versus higher priced prescription medicines).
  • By keeping the American workforce healthy and at work, OTC medicines offer $34 billion in potential productivity benefits from avoided doctor's office visits and time not having to be away from work for medical appointments.
  • Consumers and taxpayers could save $5.2 billion annually if half of the unnecessary visits to primary care physicians were avoided by more self-care, including greater use of OTC medicines.
  • 86 percent of U.S. adults believe responsible OTC medicine use helps lower healthcare costs for people like them.
  • For every dollar spent on OTC medicines, the U.S. healthcare system saves more than seven dollars.

OTC Medicines Empower Consumers

OTC medicines empower individuals and families to meet their everyday healthcare needs.

  • 96 percent of U.S. adults believe OTC medicines make it easy for individuals to care for minor medical ailments.
  • 93 percent of U.S. adults prefer to treat their minor ailments with OTC medicines before seeking professional care.
  • 85 percent of U.S. parents prefer to treat their children's minor ailments with an OTC medicine before seeking professional care.
  • 61 million consumers have avoided missing work, school, or other scheduled appointments due to illness because they had access to OTC cough medicines to alleviate their symptoms (based on census data).
  • 70-90 percent of all illness episodes are addressed with self-treatment.

Consumers Trust OTC Medicines

OTC medicines are a trusted first-line of defense for healthcare providers and consumers alike.

  • For a range of illnesses, eight in ten consumers use OTC medicines to relieve their symptoms without having to see a healthcare professional.
  • 92 percent of physicians believe OTC medicines are effective, and 91 percent believe these medicines are safe.
  • 87 percent of physicians believe OTC medicines are an important part of overall healthcare.
  • 89 percent of consumers believe OTC medicines are an important part of their overall family healthcare.
  • Consumers depend on OTC cough medicines as a first-response to relieve cough symptoms for themselves and their children:
    • Two-thirds (66 percent) of surveyed adults and 70 percent of surveyed parents rely on OTC cough medicines to treat their own and their children's symptoms.

Sources