As recently noted in a Washington Times article, over-the-counter (OTC) medicines help Americans avoid unnecessary doctor's visits ("Report: People visiting doctors less often," Web, Oct. 1). In fact, a study by Booz & Company released earlier this year found that OTC medicines contribute $77 billion in clinical cost savings from avoided doctor's office visits and diagnostic testing.
All together, the study reported that OTCs contribute $102 billion in annual savings to the U.S. health care system. That's a significant figure -- especially with today's doctor shortages and rising health care costs. Perhaps even more valuable, however, is the benefits these medicines provide people strapped for time and money.
Consider some of the medicines that switched from prescription to OTC in recent years, such as allergy and heartburn medicines. With these medicines now available to consumers without a prescription, millions of Americans are safely and effectively treating their symptoms without having to take time off work to see a doctor. Without OTC medicines, many of these individuals would have gone on suffering needlessly.
The Booz study also found that the availability of OTC medicines provides symptomatic relief for an estimated 60 million people who otherwise would not seek treatment. That's why fostering more switches from prescription to OTC status is so important. If a medicine can be taken safely and responsibly without the oversight of a doctor, it should be sold over the counter.
SCOTT M. MELVILLE
President and CEO
Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA)
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