Article Text

Download PDFPDF

Where to buy OTC medications? A cross-sectional survey investigating consumers’ confidence in over-the-counter (OTC) skills and their attitudes towards the availability of OTC painkillers
  1. A E M Brabers1,
  2. L Van Dijk1,
  3. M L Bouvy2,3,
  4. J D De Jong1
  1. 1NIVEL, Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research, Utrecht, The Netherlands
  2. 2Division Pharmacoepidemiology and Clinical Pharmacology, Utrecht Institute for Pharmaceutical Sciences (UIPS), Utrecht, The Netherlands
  3. 3SIR Institute for Pharmacy Practice and Policy, Leiden, The Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to A E M Brabers; a.brabers{at}


Objective To examine consumers’ confidence in their own, and also in other people's, over-the-counter (OTC) skills and to describe their attitude towards the availability of OTC painkillers. Moreover we examined the association between confidence in OTC skills and attitudes.

Design Cross-sectional survey. Mixed methods (postal and electronic) self-administered questionnaire.

Participants Members of the Dutch Health Care Consumer Panel.

Main outcome measures Consumers’ confidence in their own, and in other people's, OTC skills was examined. Confidence was measured by three questions regarding obtaining information on, choosing and using OTC medication. Consumers’ attitudes towards availability were assessed using six safety profiles, by asking which channel consumers prefer for each profile.

Results The response rate was 68% (n=972). Consumers feel confident about their own OTC skills (mean 3.74; 95% CI 3.69 to 3.79, on a 5-point Likert scale), but have less confidence in OTC skills of others (mean 2.92; 95% CI 2.88 to 2.96). Consumers are conservative in their attitudes towards the availability of OTC painkillers. Most consumers prefer painkillers to be available exclusively in pharmacies (41–71% per profile indicated pharmacy only). Moreover, there is an association between confidence in OTC skills and attitudes (p=0.005; β=−0.114). Consumers who are more confident about their own OTC skills prefer OTC painkillers to be more generally available.

Conclusions Consumers feel confident about their own OTC skills. However, they would prefer painkillers with safety profiles resembling those currently available OTC, to be available as OTC in pharmacies exclusively. Consumers’ confidence in the OTC skills of others is more consistent with their attitudes towards availability of OTC painkillers. Until consumers themselves realise that they are also one of the others, they may overestimate their own OTC skills, which may entail health risks.

This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 3.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See:

View Full Text

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.