Eye care: Product sales are on the increase

March 1, 2009

Drug Topics' exclusive survey on eye care offers pharmacist feedback and brand recommendations.

Key Points

Eye care is a healthy and vibrant OTC category, a fact borne out by results from an exclusive Drug Topics survey conducted online in January. Sales in U.S. food, drug, and mass-market outlets (excluding Wal-Mart) have grown annually from $397 million in 2004 to $441 million in 2007.

Reinforcing these numbers, the January 2009 EyeWorld magazine noted that "OTC products for ocular allergy and dry eye are quietly but rapidly growing ... and they often are the first line of therapy that a patient uses." The growth in both prescription and OTC eye-care sales can be attributed to an aging population worldwide and advancements in drug-delivery techniques, according to a report released in 2008 from Global Industry Analysts (GIA) in San Jose, Calif.

These findings are consistent with the Drug Topics survey, which asked pharmacists a series of questions about OTC eye-care products, covering areas from sales impact to counseling to brand recommendations.

Nearly 20 percent cite an aging population as the reason for the increase. Other frequent reasons given for the growth in sales point to increased allergies or environmental factors, consumer advertising, and greater product selection. According to several respondents, more prescribers are referring patients to OTC products as well.

Cost was mentioned only twice as a force driving increased OTC eye-care business, yet 8 percent of respondents' stores market or run sales on OTC eye-care products daily; 30 percent do so weekly; and 21 percent monthly. Nearly two dozen respondents said manufacturers could improve eye-care sales by being more price-conscious in this tough economic climate.