As healthcare costs rise, the size of the aging population grows, and the coronavirus pandemic continues, people have become more wary of their susceptibility to diseases and are more conscious of preventative care and non-prescription treatment for minor ailments. This has caused consumer health trends such as OTC growth, CBD popularity, use of wearables tech health data, and consumer-directed health to accelerate as we move into 2021.
2021 Consumer Healthcare Trends
Trend #1: Coronavirus is Driving Changes for Consumer Behavior Towards OTC Products
The 2020 coronavirus pandemic caused a major surge in demand for OTC products, particularly cough and cold medications, with industry revenue rising as consumers became more concerned with protecting their health and immune systems. As things start to resettle in 2021, demand for OTC products is still likely to be high due to pandemic-based changes to consumer behavior.
Paired with an increase in healthcare providers recommending OTC medication options, patients are feeling less certain about their reliance on prescriptions. Months after the pandemic started to impact the U.S., 52% of consumers who regularly take medication expressed concern about being able to receive their prescriptions, with 17% reporting delays during the pandemic, which may result in more frequent consideration for OTC options in the future. However, 49% of people felt very comfortable with picking up prescriptions at their local pharmacy, higher than only 31% feeling comfortable visiting a doctors’ office. This shows that safety concerns during retail pharmacy visits are less impactful on consumer behavior compared to visits to other healthcare resources, providing an opportunity for OTC products to excel. Additionally, 21% of people with insurance are concerned that they may lose coverage before the end of the 2020, which may also drive consumers to purchase OTC medications as a more affordable treatment option.
The consumer healthcare industry has provided consumers with the benefit of time savings, enabling them to purchase medicine to treat minor symptoms on their own rather than visiting the doctor in order to obtain a prescription. With significantly higher digital health and medicine website traffic and increased online orders, OTC medicines may continue to see higher purchase rates through eCommerce platforms in 2021. Driven by Covid-19, these changes in consumer behavior seem to have progressed at a more rapid pace than they would have otherwise, so consumer healthcare companies should adjust accordingly.
81% of adults use OTC medications as first response to self-treat minor illnesses.
Trend #2: CBD Products Continue to Grow in Popularity but Still Await Clear FDA Guidelines
Since its 2018 Farm Bill legalization, the growing popularity of CBD products has been at the top of consumer healthcare trends. Globally, the CBD market is expected to reach $5.3 billion in 2025, and while movement from the government to better regulate and standardize the CBD market has been slow, overall CBD product sales are expected to reach at least 1.7 billion by the end of 2020. This could be further accelerated in 2021 with issuance of clearer guidance from the FDA. As popularity for CBD products has grown in the last year- even as official legislation awaits- the market has proven to be biggest in California, Florida, and New York.
64% of Americans are now familiar with CBD products. Many users see CBD products as providing many health benefits. Gaining relevance through the stress and uncertainty that many people faced in 2020, users are especially starting to view CBD as helpful for managing mental health issues such as anxiety.
In 2021, further federal regulation would enable retail markets to grow with improved manufacturing guidelines and consumer confidence. The FDA’s 2021 budget plan has proposed $5 million to regulate cannabis and its derivatives, showing initiative to move forward with research and approvals. Currently, the FDA has approved only one prescription drug made with CBD to be used for extreme cases of epilepsy. One OTC CBD-infused pain relief product has also been the only topical drug listed in the NDC directory, though it still has not gained FDA approval. Additionally, for now, it is still illegal to market CBD through adding it to food or labeling it as a dietary supplement, making ingestible products slower to gain market share, though the CBD edibles and beverages category could reach 428% sales growth in 2025 if better regulated, compared to 159% growth for OTC supplements. For now, in 2021, it seems that CBD popularity will continue to rise in line with federal approval and guidance.
6% of US consumers use CBD oil daily.
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Contributions by Courtney Loughran.