Central and eastern European OTC market grows by 26 per cent

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

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Over-the-counter products are booming in eastern and central Europe (CEE), as consumers increasingly seek non-prescription cold and flu and digestive remedies.

The market grew 26 per cent between 2007 and 2008, with vitamins, minerals and herbals taking a, “substantial share in the market”, ​although market researcher, PMR Publications, did not go into further detail about product categories.

Monika Stefańczyk, PMR’s head pharmaceutical market analyst, said the most dynamic markets ware Slovakia (35 per cent growth), the Czech Republic (24 per cent) and Poland (23 per cent).

“Dietary supplements are selling very well,”​ she said.

The researcher estimated the market was worth €9.2bn but predicted growth would slow to eight per cent in 2009 to around €10bn, with countries like the Ukraine potentially slipping into negative growth.

Market shares

But the strength of the biggest market, Russia, is bolstering the whole region’s figures – its OTC market grew by 28 per cent in the first half of 2009 but in rouble terms. In euros, it recorded eight per cent growth and captured 45 per cent of the total CEE market.

Poland is the next biggest market in the region, capturing 22 per cent of the total market. The Ukraine has 10 per cent, the Czech Republic, six per cent.

Stefańczyk said OTC sales are being buoyed by sales outside of pharmacies in channels such as the internet and supermarkets, as often restrictive legislation that may have been a hangover from the Soviet are liberalized in many countries.

For example, Slovakia recently prepared a Medicine Act draft that could permit the sale of OTCs online.

But the majority of consumers still preferred to get their OTCs online.

In none of the countries of the region are there restrictions on the sale of dietary supplements in general stores, which are always subject to laws on foodstuffs, rather than those pertaining to pharmaceuticals,”​ PMR said.

The most liberal country was Hungary where about 390 brands of OTC drugs may be sold in places other than pharmacies.

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