The Comeback Biz
Over-the-counter (OTC) market is attractive again to Big Pharma
Given that growth trends in the OTC market and the ethical pharmaceutical market are headed in different directions, the time
seems ripe for a revival in the fortunes of the consumer healthcare business.
In 2008, global sales of OTC products grew by 6.9 percent, while ethical pharmaceuticals grew by 4.7 percent. This was the
first time that underlying OTC market growth surged significantly ahead of prescription market growth.
For years, the trend has been for large pharmaceutical manufacturers to shed their consumer health divisions to narrow their
business focus to a highly profitable core. As recently as 2006, Pfizer sold its consumer health business to J&J so that it
could capitalize on opportunities in its pharmaceuticals business. Several market forces have driven growth of OTC:
» Payers are promoting consumer self-medication because most plans do not cover expenses for OTC products.
» Distribution channels for OTC products are widening to include mass market outlets.
» Emerging markets are impacting global growth. China and Russia are now ranked among the top 10 global OTC markets.
The consumer health market will remain an attractive space—but not just for pharmaceutical companies. Successful players in
any segment may look to extend their reach into related areas. So while pharmaceutical companies are moving into OTC from
prescription products, food companies are also moving in from the other direction. Between pharmaceutical companies, consumer
packaged goods companies, and food supplements and herbal manufacturers, the OTC market is destined to become very competitive.
Pharmaceutical companies entering, re-entering, or expanding their presence in the OTC market must aim for the widest indications,
the least cumbersome pharmacy protocol, and the strongest efficacy claims. And they must get their messaging right.