Tablets medicine

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Cold & flu remedies have seen the biggest absolute decline of any sector in this year’s report

A year of lockdowns, social distancing, mask-wearing and homeworking has played havoc with cold & flu remedies. They’ve lost £197.6m. That’s the biggest absolute decline of any sector in this year’s report.

The paediatric analgesics market has gone the same way. Its two biggest brands, Calpol and Nurofen for Children, have lost a combined £22.2m. “With regular school closures due to the pandemic, children aren’t having their usual illnesses throughout the year,” notes Ryan Milburn, NielsenIQ senior insights executive.

Yet suppliers remain bullish, anticipating a rise in non-Covid illnesses amid adults and children alike as they mingle more and flu season gets underway. “Clearly we’re seeing very early signs in the cold and flu season of strength, so we feel good about that,” Reckitt Benckiser CEO Laxman Narasimhan said in October.



And there’s plenty to feel good about elsewhere in OTC. “Despite a value decline this year versus the height of the pandemic, OTC is up 8.5% in value versus pre-pandemic levels two years ago,” says Milburn.

Hayfever treatments and heartburn relief have driven this gain – up 4.2% and 6% in value respectively. Together, they have amassed an extra £16.5m.

Top Launch 2021

Hana | HRA Pharma


Reclassification this summer by MHRA, the UK medicines regulator, meant the contraceptive pill could for the first time be available without prescription. So-called mini-pills – containing only desogestrel, a synthetic version of the hormone progesterone – soon hit the OTC market. Most notable was Hana (rsp: £7.32/28 pills), supported by a £5m push aimed at the “haven’t got a moment” young female demographic. The brand is now in the likes of Tesco, Asda, Morrisons and Boots.

The Grocer’s Top Products Survey 2021: who’s up, who’s down – and our overview of the key trends