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Source: Nielsen and CHPA, March 2017

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Source: Charles River Associates, Sept. 2016

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Source: Booz & Co., Jan. 2012

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Unlike so many parts of the healthcare system, over-the-counter (OTC) medicines are readily accessible. OTC medicines can be found at drug stores, grocery stores, and various retail outlets, enabling people to purchase medicines when they need them and without first having to see a physician. Having access to OTC medicines when an ailment or minor medical emergency strikes can have a significant impact on a person’s health. It can be the difference between a fever that lingers at 102 degrees and a fever that breaks.

OTC medicines offer healthcare options for the uninsured and insured alike. The convenience of OTC medicines, such as those used for smoking cessation and weight loss, plays an important role in many Americans’ decisions to adopt healthier behaviors leading to long-term healthier lifestyles.

The convenience of OTC medicines enables consumers to be better stewards of their health. Smoking cessation is a great example. When prescription nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) medicines switched to OTC status in the 1990s, the number of quit attempts using NRT more than doubled. Since these medicines have been shown to reliably increase long-term smoking abstinence rates, the positive public health impact of making NRT medicines more accessible through over-the-counter status is very significant. 

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