More Americans Suffering from Seasonal Allergies and Choosing Nonprescription Medicine

Allergy sufferers increasingly rely on OTC medicines, are satisfied with more OTC options, and save money, but doctors still play a role

Washington, D.C. March 16, 2017 — New research from the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) and Nielsen indicates that more Americans are suffering from seasonal allergies and are choosing nonprescription, over-the-counter (OTC), treatments rather than prescription medications. These findings are part of a multi-year study on patient behavior, preferences, treatment dynamics, and costs, which are published in the new report, “Assessing Consumer Benefits of Allergy Rx-to-OTC Switches,” available online here.

According to the research, approximately 28 percent of Americans in 2015 reported that they suffer from seasonal allergies, with the majority of allergy sufferers (60 percent) saying they choose OTC medicines alone as their preferred treatment method. This represents a 20 percent increase from 2009. The study also showed 75 percent of allergy sufferers purchased an OTC medication either on its own or in addition to a prescription treatment in 2015, compared to just 66 percent in 2009, suggesting that consumers have adjusted their behavior as more OTC options have become available over the past several years.

“Less than 20 years ago nearly all allergy treatment options were prescription, but now the script is flipped and most of the options are OTC,” says Scott Melville, president and CEO of CHPA. “Access and affordability has increased significantly now that more allergy medicines have switched from prescription to OTC.”

The report, led by Nielsen on behalf of CHPA, focused on assessing the overall consumer benefits of allergy Rx-to-OTC switches. The goal of this report was to identify how the treatment dynamics of allergy sufferers have changed over the years as more OTC options have become available, including how they have benefitted in terms of costs and quality-of-life, and how healthcare insurance provider costs have changed as more OTCs have entered the market.

“Chronic diseases like allergies can be a burden on health, finances, and time,” says Andrew Mandzy, director of the Health & Wellness Growth & Strategy team at Nielsen. “Now people have more options than ever for self-care, like leveraging online sources to find health-related information or by using OTC medicines as a first line of defense.”

Although a custom survey in the report also showed that fewer allergy sufferers are going to healthcare providers (HCPs) for treatment, survey respondents did say that HCPs remain an important resource in managing their allergies. In 2015, 28 percent of allergy sufferers went to see an HCP for treatment (compared to 31 percent in 2009), and 44 percent of them stated that the HCP influenced their choice of OTC allergy medicines.

“It’s gratifying to know that patients still look at healthcare providers as an important part of their allergy management,” says Dr. Cary Sennett, president and CEO of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). “Even though most allergy medicines are conveniently available over-the-counter today, doctors still play a vital role in allergy diagnosis and management, especially for those who have a more severe form of the disease and for those who also have allergic asthma.”

From the results of the report and the trends it indicates in consumer behavior, it appears that with greater availability and choice of OTC medicines, allergy sufferers are finding a meaningful degree of cost reduction and time savings, while still achieving the critical relief they need from their allergy symptoms.


Nielsen conducted a consumer survey of 2,000 adult allergy sufferers about their treatment routine and their overall satisfaction with medication options. The Nielsen Homescan Ailment Panel tool was used for the survey to look at the preferences and purchasing behaviors of consumers over the age of 13. Researchers also used data from IMS Health on the analysis of patient visits to HCPs, monthly script data, and insurance costs, as well as data from the U.S. Census and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) Center for Financing, Access and Cost Trends (CFACT).




The Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) is the 136-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 self-care by preserving and expanding choice and availability of consumer healthcare products. 


Mike Tringale