What makes an Rx-to-OTC switch successful?

October 27, 2016By Behind the Shelf Blog, Industry Intuition

by Colleen Volheim

When you hear of an Rx-to-OTC switch on the horizon, your initial thought may be of it sparking additional category sales and profits for retailers. For many Rx-to-OTC switches this is true, however in some cases, these launches do not pack the retail sales punch manufacturers, retailers, and consumers expect. 

Here are three example scenarios that show us the reality of

  • an “it didn’t have a chance” launch,
  • an “it could have gone better” launch, and
  • a stellar launch.

Beginning with the launch that didn’t have a chance, we examine Oxytrol® Women’s Patch.  On the surface, this item had all the elements that would spell out a winner. After all, a longstanding Rx item with no real competition in the retail arena sounds promising, right?  Well, promising it was until the manufacturer that launched it in January of 2013 decided to sell the brand in 2015, which left it off the market for several months until it returned in January 2016. The brand never had the chance to evolve into greatness, however, the Patch is back on the market, and the future is looking brighter. Time will tell the rest of the story, stay tuned…

Next, is the “it could have gone better” launch, Nexium®.  This brand had a great following when it was a Rx product; however it was not the first, second, or even third acid reducer launched to the OTC marketplace. The brand only provided an additional choice to consumers to treat their condition, and its OTC competitors already offered effective treatment options. The segment was saturated with like products, and sales and profits increased only slightly over the course of time.

Finally, we examine the stellar launches, Flonase® and Nasacort®.  For allergy sufferers, these were the Rx-to-OTC launches that they were certain would relieve their symptoms, now at their fingertips without a prescription. Each brand has its own unique active ingredient, differentiating them from competitors. Those suffering from allergies found a treatment that worked for them and remained loyal to the brand.  Both brands have delivered growth in sales and profits for both their manufacturers and the retailers that stock them, as well as heavy-hitting relief to consumers making them home-run launches.

Looking back to Elements for Success, which reviewed attributes factoring into 2015 new items doing well in the market, you’ll see that an OTC product with an ingredient that is unique from competitors can be a popular path to success – whether it’s a Rx switch or not. Whatever you believe to be your true differentiators, always complete a thorough competitive analysis to verify and/or quantify.