In the recent past quite a few brands have created buzz by transiting from prescription to OTC(over-the-counter)segment.Typically a prescription drug becomes OTC when the drug is used for treating a non-chronic illness which is easy to self-diagnose & will not lead to abuse due to its widespread presence.Also the safety profiling of the drug is of prime importance for granting OTC status.Besides it is believed that popularity of the drug should be extremely high so that it could sell without Doctor's endorsement.
Brands like Revital,Calcium Sandoz,I-Pill,Strepsils etc have adopted an extensive rebranding program inorder to establish themselves in the OTC market.Quite a few brands have completely modified their 4Ps and given themselves a holistic overhaul.For instance,Calcium Sandoz Woman was called Sandocal Chew which was indicated for osteporosis in woman.When Novartis decided to foray this product into the OTC market it decided to launch it as an all together new brand .
Also I-Pill (which is a 'morning after pill' used for emergency contraception(EC)) launched by Cipla had to undergo suitable restructuring before launching in the OTC segment Viz:there were suitable changes made in the dosage of the drug.Typically most of the ECs selling through prescription route have 'twice a day' dosage;however I-Pill is a single dosage drug & thus has a greater compliance-definite prerequisite for OTC drugs.
One of the biggest challenges in selling drugs through the OTC route is the acceptability of the product by the customer.When a drug is prescribed by the doctor the patient has a compulsion to buy it but incase of OTC drug the 'compulsion' changes to 'choice' & customers' personal preferences like taste,color,price,packaging etc come into being.Thus the company has to switch from BTL advertising & make the product popular through ATL advertising techniques.In this case the biggest threat is the FMCG category as several OTC brands which have small advertising budget face head-on competition with FMCG behemoths which have huge advertising budgets & also wide shelf presence.Example Protinex versus Boost.Also,the key DMU(Decision Making Unit)incase of OTC drugs is the chemist unlike prescription drugs.Thus firms have to target chemists to improve point of purchase sale for the product.
Overall OTC is a challenging segment & while there are definite advantages there are various challenges too; inorder to fare firms have to analyze their muscle power before testing the market.