The economic value of the over-the-counter sector

To mark International Self-Care Day, PAGB launched a groundbreaking report providing the most up-to-date figures to quantify the economic value of the over-the-counter (OTC) sector. The report, undertaken by Frontier Economics and commissioned by PAGB, showcases the current and potential impact of OTC usage in the UK.

PAGB’s Chief Executive Officer, Michelle Riddalls, unveiled the findings to over 200 people at our Self-Care Day webinar on Monday 24 July. The webinar also featured a panel discussion, which was chaired by Dr Hilary Jones, and featured Bas Vorsteveld, President of PAGB and VP & General Manager in Great Britain and Ireland for Haleon; Daleep Singh, consultant at Frontier Economics; and Mark Burden, community pharmacist.

Click to watch a recording of the Self-Care Day webinar:

Self-care impact

The report reveals that 983 million OTC products are sold each year in the UK, empowering people to self-care and allowing them to treat self-treatable conditions at home. This equates to approximately 1,870 packs being sold every minute to consumers in the UK.

Some 96% of people in the UK were found to experience at least one self-treatable condition annually, resulting in 64 million individuals needing treatment each year. A remarkable 92% of people (61 million) engage in self-care, using OTCs at least once a year – while 13 million people utilise OTCs more than 10 times annually. This widespread usage demonstrates the vital role OTC products play in people’s lives, positively impacting their quality of life.

A key benefit provided by OTCs relates to improving worker health. Employees often rely on OTCs to improve their productivity, or to work when they would have otherwise had to take a day off. In fact, the report estimates that UK employees who used OTC products were able to work an extra five days per year. This means that OTCs helped avoid approximately 164 million lost workdays per year.

Benefits to the healthcare system

The report also sheds light on some of the benefits the OTC sector can provide to the NHS. By allowing people to self-care and preventing self-treatable conditions from progressing into more serious conditions, the OTC sector saves the NHS an estimated £6.4 billion annually in avoided prescription and appointment costs.

Additionally, the report highlights the potential for even greater savings. There were approximately 25 million GP appointments and 5 million A&E visits for self-treatable illnesses in the UK last year. By substituting GP and A&E appointments with OTC usage for self-treatable conditions, the NHS could save an estimated £1.7 billion annually. These savings have the potential to pay the salaries of thousands of healthcare professionals – at least one in 10 nurses in England for a year, to put things into perspective.

Reclassification of prescription-only medications to OTC status represents another opportunity, potentially generating further benefits for the NHS and the economy. Reducing NHS prescribing by just 5% could mean a saving of £1.4bn from reclassification – reducing the burden on the NHS, while increasing access to medications and enabling self-care.

Economic impact

Beyond individual and healthcare system benefits, OTC products were also found to positively impact the broader UK economy. By reducing absenteeism and avoiding productivity losses, OTC usage saves the economy an estimated £18 billion annually, according to the Frontiers report.

Additionally, the report shows that the OTC sector itself contributes £3.5bn to the economy each year. Over £2.8bn are generated from exporting products manufactured in the UK, with the remaining £600m stemming from the wages that the OTC sector is responsible for.

Looking ahead

The report clearly showcases the key role that self-care and the OTC sector play in the UK. These findings demonstrate the significant benefits that OTC products bring to millions of people across the UK, and they emphasise the potential for even greater benefits to consumers, the healthcare system, and the UK economy.

Download the report

Related news

View all