Better Living Through Medication

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Ever notice how a woman's purse often contains more medicine than an aisle of the corner drugstore? A recent survey of 1,000 female over-the counter (OTC) drug users for New York City-based Acuity Health Group, a division of health and medical advertising firm Cline, Davis & Mann, reveals that the average woman shops for OTC drugs 1.4 times per month. More specifically, 10 percent of women go shopping for OTC drugs less than once a month, 66 percent go only once and 24 percent go two or more times in any given month. (Clients of Cline, Davis & Mann include Pfizer, Bristol-Myers-Squibb and Glaxo Smith Kline).

One of the key findings of the survey, conducted by Harris Interactive in April 2001 and released in October, debunks a commonly held myth: that most people treat their medical conditions with an OTC medication first and move on to a prescription therapy if symptoms persist. Not true, says Acuity. Of those women who use OTC drugs, only a third (36 percent) say they follow this path. Nearly as many (31 percent) say they choose to treat themselves exclusively with OTC remedies, while another 33 percent use a combination of OTC drugs and prescription treatments. Americans spent $19.1 billion on OTC drugs last year, compared with $17.8 billion in 1998, according to Washington, D.C.-based Consumer Healthcare Products Association. Women are significantly more likely to report using OTC drugs than men (82 percent versus 71 percent), according to Roper Starch Worldwide.

Another myth the Harris survey dispels is that women who use OTC remedies do so to avoid taking a trip to the doctor. Actually, more than 3 in 4 women (78 percent) say they go to the doctor at least once a year for a consultation about a medical condition they are currently treating with an OTC medication. Fifty-two percent speak with a physician about their condition two or more times a year. In fact, while at the doctor's office, many women (41 percent) say they ask their doctor to recommend an OTC remedy before giving them a prescription. Of those who have asked their physician for advice on their OTC options, only 23 percent say they were advised to take a prescription medication first. Most (67 percent) say their doctor was open to the idea and recommended a specific OTC brand. And 37 percent of women's physicians actually provided them with samples of OTC products.

Keeping doctors well-stocked with samples makes good business sense for drug manufacturers. Twenty-nine percent of women who take OTC drugs say sample packs and free trials are the best way to learn about new products, according to the study. Eighteen percent say they learn the most from television advertisements, 16 percent say their doctors provide the best information and another 10 percent get advice from their pharmacists.

Women ranked “quick and long lasting relief,� followed by “lack of side effects� and “physician's recommendation� as the top three factors that most influence their repeat purchase.

For more information, contact Mark Merriman, senior vice president Cline, Davis & Mann at

Generic Labels

The majority of women who use over-the-counter medications say that when they have a choice of similar products, they're more likely to buy a generic over a brand name.


I always buy generic medications before buying a brand name, if one is available. 14%
I sometimes buy generic products before buying a brand name. 19%
I compare the ingredients in generic products with brand name medications, and if they are the same, I purchase the generic version. 58%
I never buy the generic version of the product. 9%
Source: Acuity Health Group/Harris Interactive



Four weeks into the new prime-time season, initial patterns appeared to be holding up: NBC, UPN, independent TV stations and ad-supported cable TV were showing gains. Most significantly, so was the overall medium of television. Prime-time HUTs (households using television) had risen 1 percent versus last season and 3 percent versus the 1999-2000 season, according to an analysis of Nielsen Media Research by Magna Global USA. The biggest contributor to that surge in prime-time viewing has been ad-supported cable, which gained two household rating points (see below) since the first four weeks of the 2000-2001 season, in part because of increased viewing to cable news networks.

1999-00 7.9 9.2 9.7 6.3 2.6 3.2 1.9 3.4 2.0 23.9 60.4
2000-01 9.0 8.8 8.4 7.6 2.9 3.0 2.2 3.4 2.3 23.0 61.6
2001-02 7.0 8.2 8.8 5.7 3.2 2.7 1.7 3.5 2.5 25.0 62.0
'01 vs. '99 -11% -11% -9% -10% +23% -16% -11% +3% +25% +5% +3%
'01 vs. '00 -22% -7 +5% -25% +10% -10% -23% +3% +9% +9% +1%
*ad-supported cable Source: Magna Global USA analysis of data from Nielsen Media Research
Media Buyer's Daily is a sister publication to American Demographics, targeted to advertisers, planners, buyers and sellers of media time and space.
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