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Article - PMR Research According to Poles, pharmacies are the best places to buy OTC drugs and dietary supplements

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Two-thirds of Poles buy OTC medicines and dietary supplements – and they still favour traditional pharmacies as the places for purchasing such products. Most frequently Poles choose analgesics, as well as cold and flu medicines.

A survey conducted by PMR Research demonstrated that OTC drugs and dietary supplements are more frequently purchased by women and people from bigger cities as well as those from middle age groups (25-54).

The per capita household income does not significantly influence the decisions concerning drug purchase. This may mean that the offer of the pharmaceutical market is increasingly well adjusted to the needs of the Polish customer.

It should be noted that in terms of the annual drug consumption per capita Poland is one the European leaders, so the global pharmaceutical companies are immensely interested in the Polish market (PMR Publications, Pharmaceutical and healthcare market in Poland 2011). As many as 67% Poles report that they buy OTC drugs and dietary supplements (data from a survey conducted by PMR Research).


Do you buy OTC drugs or dietary supplements?
Source: PMR Research, 2011

Drugs? Only from the pharmacy!

Poles are relatively conservative in their consumer behaviour. A vast majority of medicines and dietary supplements are still bought in pharmacies, even though their purchase does not require a prescription. Only 36% respondents buy them elsewhere.

The survey conducted by PMR Research shows that men more frequently than women buy OTC drugs in hypermarkets, convenience stores, kiosks, at petrol stations or in the internet. Women definitely prefer pharmacies (72% compared to 55% men) and they only occasionally buy drugs in shops and drug stores.

Younger people more frequently than their seniors buy OTC drugs and dietary supplements at places other than pharmacies, first of all in hypermarkets, convenience stores and drug stores. Almost half of the people aged 18-34 buy drugs only in pharmacies, compared to 82% in the age group of 55 and over.

Members of households with the highest per capita income (over PLN 1,600) buy medicines in the internet more frequently than people with lower income (11%), while less frequently purchasing OTC drugs and dietary supplements in pharmacies (54%).

The most popular pharmacies are the traditional ones, with the products handed over by pharmacist standing behind the counter (94%), while one in twenty respondents prefers self-service pharmacies where it is possible to take some of the drugs in the hand and read their descriptions.


Where do you buy OTC drugs and dietary supplements?
Source: PMR Research, 2011


Where do you buy OTC drugs or dietary supplements?
Source: PMR Research, 2011

What drugs do Poles buy?

As demonstrated by the survey conducted by PMR Research, Poles mainly buy analgesics, remedies for cold and energising preparations. They are mainly purchased in pharmacies – analgesics (85%), vitamins (77%), remedies for cold and flu (84%), gastric preparations (32%). Poles also buy these drugs in hyper- and supermarkets as well as at kiosks and petrol stations.


Do you buy the following drugs?
Source: PMR Research, 2011

Advantages and disadvantages of the common availability of OTC drugs and dietary supplements

More than half of Poles (63%) perceive the advantages of being able to buy OTC drugs and dietary supplements outside of pharmacies, as shown by a survey conducted by PMR Research. 49% respondents believe that OTC drugs and dietary supplements should be sold outside of pharmacies, but as many as 42% are against it. Only one in ten Poles (9%) thinks that everything depends on the character of a particular drug.

It is also interesting what types of medicines should be sold outside of pharmacies according to Poles. First of all these are analgesics (89%), cold medicines (25%), vitamins (14%) and dietary supplements (8%). They are frequently used, relatively safe, not exposing the user to unforeseen side effects.

The respondents believe that the availability of OTC drugs has a lot of advantages. 71% respondents consider the common availability of drugs to be an improvement as there are more places where they can obtain pharmaceuticals. Moreover, the commercial outlets are open much longer than pharmacies (e.g. round-the-clock petrol stations, shops open on Sundays, internet shops etc.). According to 16% of the people interviewed the possibility of buying drugs during usual shopping is also a major time-saver.


Advantages of buying OTC drugs or dietary supplements outside of pharmacies
Source: PMR Research, 2011

When asked about the disadvantages of the broader availability of pharmaceuticals, Poles chiefly point to the lack of control over product quality and of the certainty as to the product originality (45%). The pharmacies are seen as guaranteeing not only the quality of the product but also its originality (this is not a counterfeit) and its fitness for consumption. A big advantage of the traditional pharmacies is the possibility of consulting a pharmacist, which is not possible in other outlets selling drugs. According to 23% of the respondents the minus of purchasing medicines outside of pharmacies is that they are sold by incompetent people without medical education.

Feeling unwell, pain, an urgent need (46%), the absence of a pharmacy in the area (36%), lower prices (10%) – these are the most frequent reasons which would cause the respondents to buy an OTC drug or a dietary supplement outside of pharmacies.


Problems when buying OTC drugs or dietary supplements outside of pharmacies
Source: PMR Research, 2011

To sum up: for 82% Poles pharmacies are the best places for buying medicines, regardless of their place of residence, education or the per capita household income. The force of habit and the authority characterising the pharmacy as an institution are at play, as young people noticeably diverge from the trend – the younger the respondent is, the more often he/she reports buying medicines also outside of pharmacies. As regards OTC drugs, Poles mainly buy analgesics, remedies for cold and health improvement preparations.

The Poland-wide consumer survey was conducted by PMR Research on a representative sample of 1,000 adult Poles in October 2011. The estimation error was about 3%.
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