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Using over-the-counter drugs to treat upper respiratory infections may save $4.75 billion annually

Using nonprescription, or over-the-counter (OTC), medications to treat common upper respiratory infections could save $4.75 billion a year, according to a new study conducted by researchers from Northwestern University.

The study, which was sponsored by the Consumer Healthcare Products Association and will be presented on Oct. 28 at a meeting of the World Self-Medication Industry in Beijing, demonstrates that the majority of savings from taking OTC medications stems from improving work productivity and reducing unnecessary physician visits.

The study, led by Martin Lipsky, M.D., professor of family medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and dean of the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Rockford, compared the results of using OTC medications to treat upper respiratory infections with those with non-treatment.

Lipsky and colleagues found an average cost savings of $9 per episode among adults using OTCs to treat their symptoms. With an average of three upper respiratory infection episodes per year among Americans age 18 to 65, this translates into potential annual savings of $4.75 billion.

Many factors involved in the treatment of common upper respiratory infections contribute to a major economic burden. This study suggests that when adults use OTC medications to treat their symptoms, not only is there a symptom benefit, but there also appears to be a substantial cost savings to the healthcare system and the economy alike, Lipsky said.

Its important for people to understand the signs and symptoms of these common conditions and to know that many nonprescription products are available to treat symptoms at a fairly low cost, Lipsky said. The common cold is a leading cause of missed workdays and decreased productivity, resulting in an average loss of 8.7 work hours per cold episode. The economic impact of this lost produ
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Contact: Elizabeth Crown
e-crown@northwestern.edu
312-503-8928
Northwestern University
26-Oct-2004


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