Zyrtec isn't the first prescription drug to make the switch to over-the-counter (OTC) availability. But when McNeil launched the OTC version of its allergy medication in January 2008, Zyrtec's prescription-to-OTC transition was hardly "typical," according to a new analysis by NielsenHealth and Wolters Kluwer Health.
In the first six months following its launch (January to June 2008), Zyrtec OTC shook up prescription and OTC allergy medication markets in the U.S. Prescription allergy drug sales declined sharply, while over-the-counter allergy drug sales increased significantly.
By June 2008, prescription sales of Zyrtec had declined to nearly negligible levels. Meanwhile, the OTC form quickly gained acceptance, capturing almost one-quarter of the OTC allergy medication market -- the same share held by market leaders Benadryl and Claritin OTC, which have been available for several years.
More than 60% of Zyrtec OTC's business came from patients who had not used an allergy product in the previous two years, or who use Zyrtec OTC concomitantly with other products, according to Nielsen and Wolters Kluwer.
Another 40% of Zyrtec OTC buyers switched from a competing prescription or OTC allergy medication. Among this group, 84% of patients switched specifically from another OTC product.
Perhaps most surprisingly, while OTC products typically lure consumers with their cost savings, 68% of patients who switched to Zyrtec actually spent more than they did on their prior prescription or OTC allergy treatment, Nielsen and Wolters Kluwer found.
Nielsen and Wolters Kluwer tracked the market transition behavior of 57,000 consumers vis-à-vis Zyrtec over a 30-month timeframe.