OTC Heartburn Therapy Saves Consumers Nearly $800 Million Annually: Study

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OTC Heartburn Therapy Saves Consumers Nearly $800 Million Annually: Study

Consumers find over-the-counter (OTC) heartburn medications an effective and inexpensive remedy, according to new research from the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) and The Nielsen Company.

The study, "Benefits of Over-the-Counter Heartburn Medication to Consumers and the Healthcare System," found a 94 percent patient satisfaction with available OTC heartburn medications, and estimates that OTC therapy saves patients an average total of $174 each in office visits and medication costs annually. In addition, CHPA and Nielsen attribute $757 million in annual savings to the U.S. health care system, based on fewer office visits.

"This is wonderful news for consumers," said CHPA president Linda Suydam. "This study points to a high level of satisfaction plus costs savings among those who turn to OTC heartburn medicines for symptom relief. The overall findings reflect the evolution of heartburn treatments as the availability of effective over-the-counter treatment options has expanded over the past 15 years."

"The savings these OTC medicines provide to the U.S. health care system are equally significant," said Jim Mansfield, a researcher at Nielsen and one of the study's authors. "Ongoing research into health outcomes and the cost of lost work time and misdiagnosis holds the potential to identify additional -- yet substantial -- savings."

CHPA and Nielsen's research also found that more than half (61 percent) of consumers surveyed treat heartburn without discussing symptoms with a health care provider, and noted the importance of consumer education to safe and effective treatment.

"As with any OTC medication, consumers should read the label and follow directions closely to understand what the medicine is used for, to ensure appropriate dosing and to avoid dangerous drug interactions," said Janet P. Engle, Pharm.D., FAPhA, executive associate dean, professor and head, Department of Pharmacy Practice, University of Illinois at Chicago College of Pharmacy. "Should they have any questions, it is important that they talk to their pharmacist. Severe or ongoing symptoms should be reported to a health care provider."

The study was conducted in 2008 and is based on online and written survey responses from nearly 10,000 U.S. consumers who use OTC heartburn medication. It used NielsenHealth's Upper GI Ailment Panel data related to consumer satisfaction with the full range of OTC heartburn remedies, including antacids, H2-blockers and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). Researchers used a combination of consumer data compiled by Nielsen and provider data compiled by WoltersKluwer Health’s Dynamic Claims to estimate cost savings.

The report is available online at http://www.chpa-info.org/media/resources/r_5333.pdf.

Washington-based CHPA is a trade association representing U.S. manufacturers and distributors of over-the-counter medicines and nutritional supplements.