Kanchan Sharma
Visiting Faculty

Dr. V. N. Bedekar Institute of Management Studies knchn2@gmail.com

Dr. Satvinder Singh Bedi
Associate Professor

Dr. V. N. Bedekar Institute of Management Studies satvindergnh@gmail.com

Abstract : The purpose of this paper is to study the consumer behaviour towards OTC medicines. This research is solely based on secondary data collection i.e. literature review and it intends to analyse the role of various factors in influencing consumer behaviour while purchasing an OTC medicine. The present study discusses the kind of ailments, the first course of action, the brand of the product, purchasing site and role of advertising as some of the important factors which influence consumer behaviour.

Keywords: OTC (Over-tservices@vpmthane.org / vpm321thane-counter) Medicines, Consumer behaviour, Common ailments

A recent study conducted by PwC, McKinsey and Tech.Sci Research claims that Indian pharmaceutical market is expected to be among the top three pharmaceutical markets by incremental growth and sixth largest market globally in absolute size by the year 2020. This sector constitutes of three types of sub-segments namely, generic drugs, patented drugs and OTC drugs. Out of total market revenue of USD 20 billion (2015), generic drugs capture 70% revenue share, 21 % by patented drugs and rest 9% by OTC drugs

Source: Business Monitor International, FCCI Indian Pharma Summit 2014-15, Tech. Sci. Research, (www.ibef.org)

Indian OTC market ranks 11th position in the global OTC market size and it is expected to grow further due to many reasons like expansion of more number of pharmaceutical companies and chemist shops in the rural and semi-urban areas, people’s higher tendency to self- medicate, the need to save on healthcare spending, increasing trend in enhancing the self –care activities and managing minor ailments through non-prescription drugs.

Now the question comes, what are OTC drugs? OTC drugs are nothing but non-prescription drugs. They are

legally allowed to be sold over the counter. They are not only approved as safe but also effective for use without prescription of a registered medical practioner. All drugs that are not included in the list of prescription drugs are treated as OTC drugs in India.

Prescription drugs are medicines that are listed in Schedules H and X of the Drug and Cosmetics Rules while drugs listed in Schedule G (mostly antihistamines) of the act do not need any prescription to purchase but these drugs require the following mandatory text on the label: “Caution: It is dangerous to take this preparation except under medical supervision”.

Aches/pains, cough, colds, hyperacidity, minor topical infections and indigestion are major OTC categories. Some of the emerging categories include cuts, wounds and burns, muscle pains and sprains, diarrhoea and constipation.

Since purchasing a non-prescription drug is a practice of self –medication, awareness of OTC medicines, its availability, effectiveness, affordability are some of the key determinants of consumer behaviour for buying OTC medicines.

Review of Literature
The nature of ailments plays an important role. Dadhich & Dixit (2017) in their Questionnaire based study “Consumer selection and buying behaviour towards over the Counter (OTC) Medicine in Jaipur City “have discussed those common ailments for which people prefer self- medication. Most of the respondents prefer self medication for headache, cold and cough. Fever, muscle pain and skin problem, gastritis, allergies and rhinitis are some of the other ailments.

Source: - Dadhich & Dixit study, Consumer selection and buying behaviour towards over the Counter (OTC) Medicine in Jaipur City

Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India (2011) in its report has discussed about all the aspects of OTC medicine market. The study has not only focused on attitude of pharmacists and doctors towards OTC but also mentioned customers’ approach towards it. It was observed that depending on the severity of ailments patients opt for the next possible course of action.

Whenever a patient suffers from an ailment, the trend in consumer behaviour shows that 44% of the patients prefer to go to the pharmacist first and 24% of them visit a doctor followed by 23% opting for self medication.

Source: “OTC-the final frontier” by Nicholas Hall, Sorento Communications and IMRS, 2006, (www.indiaoppi.com)

Prajapati and Patel (2013) have interviewed 196 respondents of Ahmedabad city and their research shows that past experiences and advertisement particularly TV adds play a crucial role in influencing the consumer to purchase OTC medicines. Their questionnaire based study reveals newspapers as the second preferred medium of communication. Pamphlets, billboard, magazines & internet are found to be least appealing mode of communication.

Some researchers have also worked upon the impact of advertising on consumer buying behaviour for OTC drugs. Tiwari (2016) in his research (Effect of Advertisement

on Buying Behaviour of OTC Medicines in Nepalese Context) based on his research, has come to the conclusion that advertisement of OTC medicines has positive effect on the awareness level of the people. Though there wasn’t a positive correlation of advertisement in changing the buying behaviour.

Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India (2011) has also mentioned the rules and regulations on advertising of pharmaceutical products. A list of ailments for which no advertising is permitted has been mentioned in the Drug & Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisement) Act 1954 & Rules 1955. This act also prohibits deceptive advertising.

The following OTC medicines advertising can be seen on TV in India:



Throat Lozenges





Antiseptics creams

Baby gripe water

Cold rubs and analgesic balms

Medicated skin treatment

Ayurvedic medicines and preparations


Cough liquids

Health supplements

Source; - Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India (www.indiaoppi.com)

A similar research has been done by a Journal (Advertising of non-prescription medicines to the public, WSMI, 2008) that also emphasised on the aspect of advertising of OTC drugs stating that without advertising, consumers would be at a disadvantage. It not only increases the awareness among consumers about their condition and the availability of suitable drug for the same but also develops brand recognition to provide the consumer with confidence in the brand. It also helps consumer to make informed selections.

In their study of consumer’s buying behaviour towards OTC products, Prajapati and Patel (2013) have also focused on the factors affecting the purchasing decision of the consumers towards OTC product. They have asked the respondents to rank the features on a scale of 1 to 5, the features include Brand Name, Efficiency, Packaging, Pricing, Promotional Offer. Their findings are; -

Source: Prajapati and Patel study, A study on consumer’s buying behaviour towards OTC products of the pharmaceutical industry

Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India (2011) has also discussed some the leading OTC brands of ayurvedic medicines. These medicines have plant based natural active ingredients. Some of the leading ayurvedic OTC medicines are Vicks VapoRub, Dabur’s Pudina Hara, Calcium Sandoz, Itch Guard Cream, Moov Pain Cream, Eno Fruit Salt antacid, and Amrutanjan Pain Balm.

Their findings also reflect insights on the favourite place to purchase OTC medicine. Though residents are aware that OTC medicines are available both at convenience stores and pharmacies, most of them prefer to buy from pharmacies.

Kohli and Buller (2013) in their research “Factors Influencing Consumer Purchasing Patterns of Generic Versus Brand Name Over-the-Counter Drugs” have clearly proved the importance of advertisements, duration of the effectiveness, degree of sickness (severe), preferable form of medication and safety of the OTC as some of the factors which influence the consumer in taking a purchasing decision to buy generic or branded OTC drugs. Their study proves that generic OTC drugs and brand OTC drugs are equally effective and safe but discrepancy has been noticed between consumers’ beliefs and reported purchasing behaviour. Their primary research reveals that only half of the respondents were interested in generic OTC drugs. They have further recommended the need to educate patients about generic medicine as it may result in substantial cost savings for consumers.

Supriya Gupta (2013) in her study “Emerging Indian OTC Markets” has discussed the customer friendly ways for making OTC easily available.” The Sachet concept”, like throat lozenges, medicated ointments and creams etc are available in smaller packs for trials in urban as well as rural markets.


The researchers feel that primary data collection on wider sample could have led to better findings. Because of the tremendous potential of the healthcare industry in the coming years, consumers are becoming more aware of their health, medical insurance also plays an important role in increasing awareness and hence, it is imperative that we analyse the behaviour patterns of the consumer when they have an ailment and look out for remedies.


The present study reveals that use of OTC medicines depend primarily on the nature of ailments. Capturing a significant portion of the pharmaceutical sub-segment, OTC medicines are synonymous to the practice of self medication.

Headache, cold and cough are the main ailments for which people are purchasing OTC medicines. Though patients prefer to visit pharmacist first, self medication is also decisive factor which influences a consumer to for OTC medicines. Brand of the medicine is considered as one the important features while purchasing an OTC drug. There is a need to educate the consumer for safe and effective use of OTC drugs. TV advertisements are playing a significant role in creating awareness among them. Simultaneously there is also a threat of misleading advertisements. Government of India has also framed important law Drug & Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisement) Act 1954 and Rules1955 on pharmaceutical advertisements. Patients generally prefer buying OTC medicine from pharmacies though they are also available at convenience stores. In future there is a scope to conduct study on consumer behaviour towards allopathic and ayurvedic OTC medicines.

Prajapati, Kalpesh , and Patel Mahesh (2013), A Study On Consumer’s Buying Behavior Towards OTC Products Of The Pharmaceutical Industry, Namex International Journal of Management Research
TiwariPankaj Kumar (2016), Effect of Advertisement on Buying Behavior of OTC Medicines in Nepalese Context, Journal of advanced academic research
WorldSelf-Medication Industry (WSMI) 2008, Advertising of non-prescription medicines to the public, A significant contributor to healthcare
Dadhich,Abhishek & Dixit Kavaldeep (2017), Consumer Selection and Buying Behaviour Towards Over the Counter (OTC) Medicine in Jaipur City, Apeejay- Journal of Management Sciences and Technology,
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