PALM SPRINGS, Calif. -- Consumers desiring to self-medicate with over-the-counter drugs represent substantial business and professional opportunities for pharmacies, said Tim Covington, executive director, Managed Care Institute, and Bruno professor of pharmacy, Samford University, Birmingham, Ala. Covington spoke at the Food Marketing Institute Supermarket Pharmacy Conference here this month.
"There's a great need out there by the public to have access to a learned intermediary that has some degree of specialty educational training in nonprescription pharmacotherapy, and that's most logically the pharmacist," Covington said. "We're the portal of entry in the health care system and it creates unbelievable opportunities for us professionally and economically."
While filling prescriptions is the "brain and spinal cord" of the pharmacy industry, Covington stressed that pharmacists should not trivialize or undervalue the economic importance of OTC drug therapy. He estimated that over-the-counter medications combined with herbal therapies represent $30 billion in sales.
"We can't be too slow about seizing these opportunities," Covington said. "These windows open and close, and we have to jump through while they're open."
Michele Snider, director, pharmacy, Save Mart Supermarkets, Modesto, Calif., said that aggressively marketing nonprescription drug therapy "has been a missed opportunity."
However, blockbuster prescription drugs that go over-the-counter create a challenge to maintain sales in supermarkets because of extreme price sensitivity across the trade channels, said Mark Shadle, vice president, pharmacy operations, Albertsons' national drug region headquarters in Scottsdale, Ariz.
"It's a challenge because the big prescriptions going over the counter don't necessarily translate to sales for us," he said. "Our prescription customers are lost to the mass merchandisers over price sensitivity, and it's a challenge we continually have to look at."