Quantifying the socio-economic impact of changing access to an over-the-counter medicine

August 17, 2022 • Reading time 2 minutes

Changing access to medicines from over-the-counter (OTC) to prescription-only, or vice versa, has varying implications for individuals, healthcare systems, and society as a whole. Understanding the potential impacts of reclassifying a drug enables informed decisions to be made around it’s access.

With a need for robust analysis and modelling, Edge Health were approached to undertake a health economic evaluation of the impact of restricting access to an OTC medicine, in collaboration with a healthcare communications agency.

We built a comprehensive understanding of the effects of reclassifying the medicine as prescription only. Surveys were administered to individuals who reported to use the medicine, to gain insight into their current usage patterns as well as how they would respond if it was only available by prescription.

Data from this survey was then used to inform the modelling. We carried out a scenario analysis, combining survey results with evidence-based assumptions to quantify impacts, amongst the sample, across three areas – wellbeing, economic and social. Baseline OTC usage of the medicine was calculated for the survey sample, and used to scale these impacts to a national level based on national OTC sales data.

We reported that restricting access to the drug would impact the individuals who used it (both their wellbeing and economically), the healthcare system (through increased use of GP and A&E services), and the taxpayer. The figures we provided on national impact will be valuable in building the evidence base on changing access to the medicine, informing decision makers and ensuring both sides of the discussion are fully considered.


Edge Health are a specialist UK healthcare analytics consultancy that use data and insights to improve the delivery of health and care services, so that better outcomes can be delivered more efficiently.