Safety first with children's OTCs

Articles
January 17, 2011

Safety first with children's OTCs

New York State Representative Steve Israel is on a mission to significantly reduce the risk of overdosing children with over-the-counter remedies. His newly introduced legislation, the Protecting our Kids' Medicine Act, would standardize dosing devices and measuring cups on children's over-the-counter remedies, and simplify instructional labels, which he and many health experts say could lead to potentially harmful overdoses. Until his legislation passes, if it does, parents and school authorities must continue to decipher difficult-to-understand packages before dispensing pediatric doses. The latest issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association published a study revealing, "99% of the dosing cups included with OTC cold remedies are flawed," Rep. Israel wrote in a letter to his Long Island constituents. Meanwhile, the Institute for Safe Medication Practices has been ahead of this issue for years. "Parents are often confused by measurements for liquid medications, and give their children an incorrect dose of OTC fever medicine 47% of the time....They often do not understand the difference between a teaspoon and a tablespoon, or the proper use of metric measurements such as milliliters," ISMP wrote in its Protecting U.S. Citizens From Inappropriate Medication Use report, which also cited earlier studies. In our view at F3, it will be notable to see if brand manufacturers of children's OTCs can restore market share and sales by improving these child safety aspects of their product packaging, either voluntarily or as mandated by legislation. In the two years since the recession made America ill, brand sales of children's pain and cold remedies tumbled, while private label sales soared, according to Nielsen data in U.S. food, drug and mass merchandiser stores (including Walmart) for the 52 weeks ended November 27, 2010.

New York State Representative Steve Israel is on a mission to significantly reduce the risk of overdosing children with over-the-counter remedies. His newly introduced legislation, the Protecting our Kids' Medicine Act, would standardize dosing devices and measuring cups on children's over-the-counter remedies, and simplify instructional labels, which he and many health experts say could lead to potentially harmful overdoses. 

Until his legislation passes, if it does, parents and school authorities must continue to decipher difficult-to-understand packages before dispensing pediatric doses. The latest issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association published a study revealing, "99% of the dosing cups included with OTC cold remedies are flawed," Rep. Israel wrote in a letter to his Long Island constituents. 

Meanwhile, the Institute for Safe Medication Practices has been ahead of this issue for years. "Parents are often confused by measurements for liquid medications, and give their children an incorrect dose of OTC fever medicine 47% of the time....They often do not understand the difference between a teaspoon and a tablespoon, or the proper use of metric measurements such as milliliters," ISMP wrote in its Protecting U.S. Citizens From Inappropriate Medication Use report, which also cited earlier studies. 

In our view at F3, it will be notable to see if brand manufacturers of children's OTCs can restore market share and sales by improving these child safety aspects of their product packaging, either voluntarily or as mandated by legislation. In the two years since the recession made America ill, brand sales of children's pain and cold remedies tumbled, while private label sales soared, according to Nielsen data in U.S. food, drug and mass merchandiser stores (including Walmart) for the 52 weeks ended November 27, 2010. 

We attribute much of this PL pickup to the typical recommendation by in-store pharmacists, when asked, that active ingredients are identical and therefore private label remedies are as efficacious as brands. Such guidance helps parents feel confident in their choice to save money. The shift could also be due in part to any label and dosage confusion with brands. 

Dollar sales of children's branded cold remedies fell 18.8% to $283.4 million, following a 3.3% dip the year before. Concurrently, PL dollar sales surged 32.5% to $92.9 million, following a 41.8% jump the year before. As a result, PL market share more than doubled in this segment, from 12.1% in 2008 to 24.7% in the latest 2010 period. 

Dollar sales of children's branded liquid pain remedies fell 46.7% to $139.0 million, following a 10.6% rise the year before. Concurrently, PL dollar sales soared by 62.6% to $142.3 million, atop a 14.1% rise a year earlier. As a result, PL sales in this segment eclipsed those of brands, earning a 50.6% share, the data showed. 

To build trial with new consumers and build on this shift toward PL purchases, F3 recommends that retailers scrutinize their own label information and dosage instruments for clarity. Because a retailer's PL spans all the segments it sells, stores could position themselves as child safety authorities, reinforcing the message with in-store signage, on the website, and on prescription refill voice mails.