Study: OTC medications save billions for healthcare system
The U.S. healthcare system saves $6 to $7 for every dollar Americans spend on over-the-counter (OTC) medications, according to a new study released by the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA).
That could provide $102 billion in savings every year, the study reported.
Booz & Co. surveyed 3,200 consumers for the study, which was funded by the CHPA. Researchers measured the aggregate cost savings of OTC medications as used for the 7 most common self-treatable conditions in the United States. The value figures were derived from total direct savings from avoided clinical visits and diagnostic testing ($77 billion) and use of less costly OTC medications, rather than more costly prescriptions ($25 billion).
"This study is the first of its kind to assign a dollar value that captures how our entire healthcare system relies on OTC medicines for affordable healthcare," CHPA President and CEO Scott M. Melville said in a press release. "When you consider that every dollar spent on an OTC medicine saves our system $6 to $7 in avoided cost, it is paramount that our policymakers do all they can to encourage consumer access to OTC medicines for self-treatable conditions."
The study also found that:
Keeping the American workforce at work through OTC medications offers $23 billion in potential additional productivity benefits from doctor's office visits avoided and time not having to be away from work for medical reasons.
The total value of OTC medications is captured throughout the entire U.S. healthcare system: $52.7 billion in value for employer-sponsored health plans, $27.5 billion in value for government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, and $21.7 billion in value for self-insured and uninsured populations.
The availability of OTC medications – off the shelf, without a prescription – provides symptomatic relief for an estimated 60 million people who would otherwise not seek treatment.
Without affordable and accessible OTC medications, underserved populations would depend more heavily on higher-cost medical care. One in 4 Medicaid patients and 1 in 10 uninsured individuals would seek treatment in an emergency department as their first recourse for treating a minor ailment.
Melville noted that the study findings underscore the importance of reversing a provision in the 2010 Affordable Care Act that prohibits consumers from using their flexible spending arrangements to purchase OTC medications without first getting a prescription.
The CHPA “supports efforts in Congress to repeal the OTC prohibition, including the Restoring Access to Medication Act (S.1368/H.R. 2529) and the Patients' Freedom to Choose Act (H.R. 605/S.312),” it said in the press release.