Americans tend to buy a mixture of both branded and generic OTC drug products

Cheryl Kar
October 07, 2021, 7:51 AM UTC

Use of over-the-counter (OTC) drugs is common in American households and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been constantly reviewing the ingredients used in them. With over 300,000 OTC drugs now available in the US market, YouGov Profiles highlights the purchase habits of US adults when it comes to these products. 

Nearly half of US adults (44%) say that they buy OTC drugs as and when they need them. Two in five, meanwhile, prefer to keep a supply of essentials at home and choose to buy more when they need them (39%). Just one in ten like to keep a full stock of these products ready in their home (10%).

While OTC drugs are now an indispensable part of the American healthcare system, are consumers also concerned about opting for certain brands when looking for one? Our data shows that more than half of consumers (57%) tend to buy a mixture of both branded and generic labels of OTC drugs. Only 10% of respondents are inclined exclusively toward branded OTC products and the same share say they’ll buy only the generic or store brand medication. About one in seven choose between generic and branded OTC drugs based upon their availability (18%). 

So, what’s influencing American adults to choose a particular OTC drug brand? 

Data indicates that individual experiences play a key role in motivating US adults to opt for a specific OTC drug brand - half of the respondents in our survey say they have used a product in the past and know it works for them (50%). A close second are consumers who say that price is a crucial factor for them in choosing one OTC brand over another (48%). It’s worth noting that for a significant proportion of US adults (35%), recognizing the brand name is central to their purchase decision. Doctor’s recommendations influence a quarter of American adults to opt for a particular OTC drug brand (26%), while at least one in five factor in recommendations by their friends or family (20%). Just 10% of the respondents in the survey said that internet search results helped them choose which OTC drug brand to opt for.

Consumers are still divided between branded and generic OTC drug products – with the effectiveness of the product being their priority.

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Methodology: YouGov Profiles is based on continuously collected data and rolling surveys, rather than from a single limited questionnaire. Data is from the 26 September 2021 dataset. YouGov Profiles data is nationally representative and weighted by age, gender, education, region, and race. Learn more about YouGov Profiles.