• Aditya Kaushal

OTC Drugs Market: Global Market, Consumer Behaviour & Covid-19 Pandemic

Updated: Dec 4, 2020


Global pandemic has stressed out people to be more concern towards their health and keep up social distancing to take precautions against the covid-19 spread. One of the key positive changes observed in this pandemic is the “Self Care” by individuals. It has created global awareness among people towards taking self health measures and cautious to maintain their own health. According to AKI Research & Consulting, the global consumption market for masks and hand-sanitizers is estimated to grow over 674% and 240% respectively in the year 2020 compared to 2019. The mandatory usage of face masks and hand-sanitizers in public places & offices by governments in many countries have also supported the health measures and awareness to fight against this pandemic. Due to pandemic, people were asked to stay at home and allowed only limited visit to clinics or hospitals if a severe illness persists. Self care has also supported the market for OTC drugs where consumers are more resilient to the health systems and preferring OTC drugs over (Prescription) Rx drugs. The changing attitude of people towards family and own health, and prioritizing day to day care of their health have made a profound impact on the demand for OTC drugs globally.


OTC drugs are first line of defence when the illness is not severe and symptoms are known to the patient or care taker at home. Consumers prefer the OTC drugs which are more accessible and have a trusted brand image. For minor ailment, the customer believes in OTC medicines without consulting to doctors or going to clinics or hospitals or directly asks the pharmacists. OTC drugs manufacturers advertises their products through different media like television, newspaper, etc. in order to promote the quality and usage against diseases and awareness towards the diseases. These OTC drugs also get promoted through word of mouth marketing. Using OTC drugs also saves time, have cost advantage, and avoids unnecessary visit to hospitals. It is therefore essential for OTC drug manufacturers to follow all the regulatory guidelines in manufacturing and distributing OTC drugs according to respective countries or region.

During the pandemic, the focus on increasing immunity against the Covid-19 virus has resulted in the significant growth in demand for vitamins, minerals and supplements OTC drug products. Among the product types, in 2020, the vitamins, minerals and supplements is estimated to account the highest market share, followed by OTC drugs for cough, cold, and flu product types. Weight loss & dietary products, OTC drugs have seen significant growth in demand over the last 5 years from the developed countries, however, increasing health consciousness and maintaining weight among the mass population as a changing lifestyle in developing economies have boosted the market.


In the pandemic, the online retail market for OTC drugs has also increased by over 140% where the customers are more informed and uses technology to receive the products through online distribution channels. Online retail also helped customers to be safe at home by not going out on retail pharmacy shops to risk the covid-19 infections. As the lifestyle also changed during the pandemic, the workplace environment and continuous pressure to adapt and adjust changing lifestyle with homely living space in work from home, having addictive products to stay awake for longer hours on job, etc. have caused stress to the people which resulted in psychosomatic disorders like frequent headache, common cold, backache, allergy, acidity, chronic fatigue etc. This has also supported the preference of OTC drugs as self medication to overcome these disorders by the customers.

Based on the region, in 2019, North American market accounted the highest market share of OTC drugs market, followed by Asia-Pacific, Europe, and others. By countries, United States is estimated to dominate the global OTC drugs market with market share of 26.38% in 2020 with a CAGR of 6.23 % during the period 2020-2025. Compared to other region, North America has the highest rate of switches from Rx to OTC drugs and also the household expenditure is the highest for OTC drugs products (~USD 442 per year as of 2019) in the United States. According to CHPA, the country has approx. 54,000 pharmacies and more than 750,000 retail outlets that sell OTC products. In Europe and Japan too the switching approvals of Rx to OTC drugs have increased and it is expected that in these regions, there would further increase in the number of switches of Rx drugs to OTC drugs in the coming years in order to promote self medication and to promote more use of in-vitro diagnostics and OTC medicines.

The OTC drugs market share is fragmented in regions and there is high intense competition between local and international players. Some of the key players in this market are Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer Inc, Sanofi SA, GlaxoSmithKline PLC, Abbott Laboratories, Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, Takeda, Novartis, Bayer Ag, Mylan NV, Reckitt Benckiser Group PLC, Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. etc. among others.

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Key Highlights of the Global OTC Drugs Market:

  • Segmented by Product Type, Distribution Channel, and Geography

  • Base Year: 2019, Estimated Year: 2020, Forecast: 2021-25 (Y-o-Y)

  • Historical Years: 2014-2018

  • Market Share for 2019 & 2020 (est.) and Recent developments for Covid-19

  • Regions: 5 (NA, SA, EU, APAC, MEA)

  • Country: 18 Major Countries + Rest of Countries in Each Region

  • Company Profiles: 12+ Major Companies


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