Headache emerges top common health ailment among Urban Indians: Ipsos Consumer Health Monitor

ENO most preferred OTC brand for gastric conditions; Zandu Balm top choice among balms for headaches.

According to a large pan India survey by Ipsos titled Ipsos Consumer Health Monitor: OTC Quotient of Urban India, covering 34 cities and 15,133 households, Headache has emerged the top common ailment among urban Indians, with at least 1 in 2 claiming to be suffering from it. And to mitigate the impact of the ailment, consumers prefer OTC pills over balms.

Some of the other top ailments cited included fever, bodyache, common cold, nose block, among others. Notably for fever, consumers chose doctor visit over self-medication whereas for headache, cough and cold, more respondents seemed to self-medicate and rely on chemists. Further, gastric conditions were found to be more prevalent among geriatrics.

Interestingly, Eno has emerged the top OTC brand choice for gastric conditions with at least 7 in 10 urban Indians preferring it. Zandu balm was the top choice among balms for headaches.

The survey captures 50 common ailments and conditions and includes the categories of analgesics and antipyretics, oral care, cough and cold, antacids and digestives, anti-spasmodics, anti diarrhoeal, skin injuries/ ailments, hair problems, sleep loss, etc. actions taken (home remedies, self-medication, doctors visit), brand awareness and usage. It also included understanding the penetration of some common OTC categories including ORS, Vitamins, Minerals and Supplements, Artificial Sweeteners etc, treatment management of common ailment and conditions (home remedies, self-medication, doctors visit). The survey further checked the prevalence of chronic conditions such as Hypertension, Diabetes, Asthma, Thyroid etc. and penetration of medical devices viz. Blood glucose monitor, Thermometer, BP monitor etc, in the household and a module on covid-led behavior change.

Monica Gangwani, country service line leader, Ipsos Healthcare elaborating on the rationale of doing this study said, “Consumer OTC market in India is a huge one, valued at USD 6.38 billion in 2020, and is expected to reach USD 15.48 billion by 2025. Several observations compelled us to conduct this pan India study. One, we found there is a surge in self-medication due to paucity of time, increased literacy levels and high doctor fee. Secondly, mushrooming of new categories like cosmeceuticals, health supplements and wearable devices and thirdly erstwhile ethical pharma companies taking their popular brands from Rx to OTC and strong promotion of OTC brands. So technically, there have been a surfeit of ethical brands taking the OTC plunge and there was a complete lack of a credible study tying up various elements of the OTC aspects –consumers, brands, behavior and need gaps.”

Pattabhiraman from Ipsos Healthcare says “Entry into the “Household Pitara box” alone is the marker of success for OTC brands. OTC brands today have an additional responsibility to double up as a doctor given the departure from doctor franchise. Brands should hand- hold the consumers in making them aware of the condition, dosage, desired results and any unforeseen side-effects. Role of chemist and dependence on chemist also assumed an even higher importance during the lockdown phase.”

COVID Impact

Unlike popular perception, the study found no significant change in medicine stocking behaviour of consumers during the covid lockdown phase vs pre-Covid.

55% respondents did not specifically stock medicines during lockdown. This behaviour was no different to the pre-Covid phase with 54% of the respondents claiming not stocking medicines even during normal times.

Only 7% of the respondents mentioned consulting a doctor during the covid lockdown phase. 88% of those consultations were for common conditions viz. cough, cold, fever, acidity, indigestion etc. While 31% were for regular check-ups for metabolic conditions such as Diabetes, Hypertension, Arthritis, Asthma etc.

The pattern of consultation during lockdown and pre-Covid was found to be similar: 71% and 72% respectively consulted face to face in Clinics; 41% face to face in hospitals (lockdown) versus 47% in hospital (pre Covid) – with a slight dip in hospital visits during the lockdown. Interestingly the survey showed that during the lockdown period, 28% consulted doctors over telephone, 16% consulted over WhatsApp & 10% over video call (Zoom, Skype etc).

(We got this information in a press release).

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