Over-the-Counter Cough Medicines Will Save Consumers, U.S. Healthcare System Billions Over Next Decade

New research measures value of nonprescription treatment options

Washington, D.C. (November 1, 2016)— A recent study conducted by Charles River Associates, a leading global consulting firm, has quantified the savings consumers and the healthcare system receive from the over-the-counter (OTC) availability of the widely used cough suppressant dextromethorphan (DXM).

According to the study, “Managing Access to Dextromethorphan: Cost Implications of a Potential Over-the-Counter to Prescription Only Conversion,” the OTC availability of DXM will save consumers and the healthcare system $21-31 billion over the next 10 years. 

The study, commissioned by the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA), looks at how much patients, employers, and payors would pay over a 10-year window (beginning in 2016 and continuing until 2025) if the products were not OTC.

“Year round and especially during cough and cold season, consumers rely on OTC medicines to safely and effectively treat their symptoms so they can get a good night’s rest and carry on with their busy days,” CHPA President and CEO Scott Melville said. “Given that there are roughly 1 billion cases of the common cold each year, it’s no surprise that the savings consumers get from avoiding unnecessary trips to the doctor and accessing affordable nonprescription treatments add up.” 

The study calculates the estimated savings due to direct costs of the drugs to consumers and physicians as well as other factors such as work absenteeism and productivity loss.

Full text of the study can be found on the Charles River Associates website.


The Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) is the 135-year-old national trade association representing the leading manufacturers and marketers of over-the-counter (OTC) medicines and dietary supplements. Every dollar spent by consumers on OTC medicines saves the U.S. healthcare system $6-$7, contributing a total of $102 billion in savings each year. CHPA is committed to empowering consumer self-care by preserving and expanding choice and availability of consumer healthcare products. 


Contact: Jenni Roberson 202.429.9260