Featuring this month: Cough and cold medications

January 14, 2008

Drug Topics conducted an exclusive OTC survey for cough, cold and flu products.

Conducted by Advanstar Communications Research Services, the online survey was fielded in late November and closed in early December. It obtained a total of 249 usable replies.

Sixty-four percent of respondents to Drug Topics' 2007 Over-the-Counter Cough, Cold, and Flu Survey said that patients are asking for more counseling as a result of manufacturers' substitution of PE for PSE; 78% reported that because of the recent voluntary withdrawal of cough and cold products for infants, they get plenty of questions from parents confused by the controversy.

Seeking advice

Who gets the dialogue going? Customers aren't shy about striking up a conversation with R.Ph.s. Some 87% of pharmacists mentioned that customers typically initiate the tête-à-tête. Pharmacists start the dialogue only 13% of the time.

Pharmacists who live in the Southwest appear to counsel more patients per week during cough, cold, and flu season and those in the northeast counsel the least number of patients.

When asked what prompts them to initiate discussions about OTCs, pharmacists gave the following reasons: to improve the patient's health (78%), protect the patient's safety (66%), or an ingredient in the patient's prescription medicine may require discussing an OTC that can be used with it. (63%).

Seeing patients deliberate about what OTCs to buy in the cough/cold section draws some pharmacists out from behind the counter to help. Another R.Ph. said "coupons" get them involved.

Do patients heed R.Ph.s advice? Forty percent of respondents indicated that patients "almost always" follow their advice on OTC cough, cold, and flu products; 50% said patients "frequently" take their words to heart; and 8% reported that patients "sometimes" heed their words. Fewer than 1% said patients never follow their advice, and 1.6% said "don't know."

New rules

When asked whether state and federal requirements for placing PSE products behind the pharmacy counter have affected sales of these products in their pharmacy, 77% said yes. Ninety-two percent of these respondents reported that sales have decreased as a result.

Similarly, when asked whether state restrictions on products containing dextromethorphan have affected sales of these products in their pharmacy, a smaller group (26%) said yes. Eighty-nine percent of these respondents said sales have decreased. One R.Ph. noted that this regulation has created "more theft" of these products.

What do pharmacists think about the FDA advisory committee's recent recommendation that cough and cold products not be used by children under six? Thirty eight percent of respondents said they strongly agree or agree with the recommendation; 33% somewhat agree; and 29% disagree or strongly disagree.