The economic impact of over-the-counter medicines

Our latest independent report highlights the significant benefits of over-the-counter (OTC) medicines to the UK economy.

Frontier was commissioned by PAGB, the consumer healthcare association, to explore the economic impact of OTCs in the UK. In particular, Frontier was asked to assess the current impact of OTCs and the potential future impacts of greater OTC usage.

Our analysis of the OTC sector has considered three categories of impacts:

  • The economic activity of the OTC sector due to OTC sector firms’ operations, including employment. This boosts local prosperity and contributes to national policy objectives for economic growth.
  • The impact on the NHS, including cash savings from avoided prescriptions and capacity savings for avoided appointments, due to individuals managing conditions through self-care instead.
  • The economic impact of improved worker health. When individuals use OTCs, their health is improved, helping workers to avoid absenteeism and to be more productive.

Key findings:

We estimate that:

  • the OTC sector itself contributes £3.5bn to the UK economy each year;
  • the sector contributes billions in wages and exports and helps employees avoid 164 million missed work days;
  • OTC use saves the NHS £6.4bn each year in avoided prescription and appointment costs;
  • greater OTC use could unlock even more of these benefits. Eliminating appointments for self-treatable illnesses and enabling greater use of existing OTCs instead could save the NHS at least £1.7bn per year and reduce workplace absence. We estimate that each year, at least 25 million GP appointments and 5 million A&E visits are used for self-treatable illnesses.

Eliminating unnecessary NHS treatment for minor illnesses and instead enabling greater use of existing OTCs and self-care could have a significant beneficial impact. Widening access to OTC products via reclassification of suitable candidate drugs is another avenue to unlock further potential in the OTC markets that policymakers should consider.

Please click here to read the full report.