The Over-the-Counter (OTC) market is extremely competitive, so continuous innovation is essential to staying ahead. However, OTC innovation is not an overnight process and there are a number of factors that contribute to, or limit, growth in the sector. A recent poll of over 200 R&D, marketing and sales leaders in the industry, conducted by Catalent, a leading development and supply partner, sought to discover what OTC market leaders considered to be the biggest opportunities and barriers to innovation and growth within the sector.

According to the results, 23% agree that consumer education and communication were significant influences. A further 26% of respondents think that new drugs entering the market via the Rx (prescription) to OTC switch was a key factor, while 39% believe that advancements in dose technology and delivery systems are major drivers of growth.

Conversely, the current Rx to OTC landscape was also cited as a barrier to development. When asked what they believed to be the most significant obstacles to positive change, 22% of industry professionals stated a lack of new drugs transitioning from Rx to OTC. While 2020 appeared to signal the rejuvenation of prescription-only drugs switching to OTC status as shown by the conversion of five products in four different therapeutic classes, this appears to have been an anomaly and far below the sales of blockbuster switches of the past. As of June, 2021, there have been no approved switches, despite there being several therapeutic classes being mentioned repeatedly in the industry for a number of years.

Beyond Rx to OTC switch challenges, a further 21% of respondents said changing consumer perceptions of self-care were affecting growth, while a changing regulatory environment, private label pressure and retailer demands were also considered factors.

Overcoming the barriers to growth in OTC innovation

What can manufacturers do to drive innovation and develop new products that are not coming through the Rx pipeline while meeting rising consumer demand and staying abreast of ever-changing regulatory standards?

According to the poll, 65% of respondents stated that the answer lies in working with external partners. Most brands already share concepts with partners to evaluate the best outputs, while others ask partners for new concepts for their in-house team to evaluate. Further, companies are approaching external partners for new products they had proactively developed.

What makes a good OTC development partner?

There are three key qualities that manufacturers look for in an external partner: 1) high-quality standards, 2) reliable supply, and 3) speed of development. Meeting all three of these requirements is no easy task, but, is critical to demonstrating an ability to develop and supply high quality innovation that brands can rely on.

Catalent brings over 85 years of experience and expertise in softgel, fast-dissolve, and oral solid dose formulation development and supply for the OTC, nutritional supplement and beauty markets. Today, Catalent partners with 23 of the top 25 consumer health companies and produces more than 5,000 consumer health and beauty products which are marketed in more than 70 countries.

Since 1933, Catalent has produced consumer health products across a wide range of product categories. The company offers unique, proven technologies and highly versatile consumer-preferred dose forms to meet a variety of consumer needs – including those with cultural, dietary, or religious requirements, visual impairment, along with difficulty swallowing.

With market-ready products, advanced formulation development, commercial manufacturing expertise and a global supply network across four continents, Catalent helps your brand gain a competitive edge, and bring better products to market faster. To find out more about how a partnership with Catalent can benefit you, download the whitepaper below.