OTC Products and Pharmacists

OTC Guide, June 2015, Volume 19, Issue 1

Because the pharmacist is a trusted professional, recommending an OTC product conveys the idea that the product is special, will treat the patient's problem, and can be trusted.

Why do the makers of OTC medications want to have a product that is recommended by pharmacists? The simple answer is that the recommendation will produce more sales and make more money. Although that may be true, I think the answer goes much deeper. Because the pharmacist is a trusted professional, recommending an OTC product conveys the idea that the product is special, will treat the patient’s problem, and can be trusted. When the answer to my question is seen from this perspective, a different level of responsibility is placed on the pharmacist when making an OTC product recommendation.

First, pharmacists must be knowledgeable about the condition the patient is experiencing, including the treatment options available and when self-medication may not be appropriate. Articles about OTC medication can be useful resources for the pharmacist in this regard. That is why Pharmacy Times regularly includes articles about common conditions that can be self-treated. This 19th edition of the OTC Guide provides information that will help pharmacists to make OTC recommendations. Knowing what products are recommended can help you assess your own recommendation strategy. If your approach is different than the majority, you need to make sure you are using the most current information.

Second, pharmacists have a responsibility to educate their patients about the safe use of OTC products. If your product recommendation promotes trust in that product, then you have a responsibility to make sure patients understand how to use the product safely.

Many OTC products are widely advertised and sold in other outlets beside pharmacies. Knowing that, how can pharmacists compete? We can compete by promoting our image as trusted experts who are available to help patients select an appropriate OTC product and to make sure that patients are educated on how to use products appropriately.

We promote the pharmacist as the most accessible health professional, and we promote the community pharmacy as the neighborhood health center. When community pharmacists promote their roles in helping patients select and correctly use OTC products, we build up our image as accessible health professionals. Our OTC product recommendations further enhance our pharmacies as neighborhood health centers. When viewed from this perspective, OTC product advice can play an important role in helping to demonstrate that pharmacists are the drug experts on the health team.

Enjoy this issue of the OTC Guide. May it help you learn more about OTC products so you can provide better advice to your patients.