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Kiwis take wait and see approach to minor ailments

Kiwis take ‘wait and see’ approach to minor ailments

International consumers rank product safety, efficacy and trust as most important factors for over-the-counter medicines

New Zealanders are taking a ‘wait and see’ approach to minor ailments rather than purchasing prescription medication as soon as they start to feel unwell according to an global online survey by The Nielsen Company.

The finding is part of a recent survey by The Nielsen Company, in partnership with the Association of the European Self-Medication Industry (AESP). It involved more than 28,000 people across 51 countries and looked at people’s willingness to self-medicate when they felt unwell, along with the barriers preventing people from treating their own ailments.

Information sources for medication and health and ailment care were also covered in the survey as well as people’s feeling about the availability of more prescription medicines without doctor involvement.

Most countries surveyed opt to see their doctor first while an equally large number take health education messages to heart before consulting a doctor or pharmacist. Nearly 20 per cent of kiwis delayed taking medication purely for financial reasons.

The healthcare survey also revealed distinct regional and cultural factors that influence consumers’ behaviour when it comes to self-medication.

Taking medicine to treat a minor ailment as soon as symptoms start was most likely to take place in Central and Eastern European countries, as well as in Latin America and North America. It was least common in Western Europe, where only one in five consumers claimed that they treated minor ailments in this way. Consumers in Russia (52%), Vietnam (45%) and Venezuela (40%) are most likely to take a medicine for a minor ailment as soon as symptoms appear.

According to a 2007 Nielsen healthcare global survey, 42 percent of consumers claimed to have suffered a headache in the past month, with one in three people suffering from a cold, backache or sleeping problem.

“Our latest consumer survey demonstrates a need and demand for more health education and communication from all sectors of the healthcare industry - from doctors and pharmacists to over the counter manufacturers and health media - to help consumers better understand the treatment of minor ailments and medicines," said Geoff Smith, Director Retailing, The Nielsen Company New Zealand.

Regional differences also shone through in those surveyed when it came to choosing medicine to treat minor ailments. For one in two consumers in Asia and Middle East/Africa, “safety” of the product was the most important factor, while for nearly one in two North Americans and Europeans, knowing that “the product works”, was most important.

Forty percent of Latin Americans said they needed to “have confidence in the product” while one in three Asians want reassurance that the product will “work quickly” and will choose “a trusted name”. For North Americans, where non-prescription medicines are widely available in supermarkets and where "private label" products are common, financial considerations such as “price” and “value for money” are more important than “a trusted name” or “a product I usually use.”

Of those consumers who wait and see if their minor ailments gets better before taking medicines, Chinese and Korean consumers top global rankings for the belief that taking medication is harmful to your health – in Europe, 65 percent of Russians and 59 percent of Italians also share this view. Sixteen percent of global consumers said they would visit their doctor first and 15 percent said they would seek other forms of treatment.

Among the top countries who prefer to wait to see if they get better before taking medication are Korea (82%) followed by Germany, Austria, Denmark, Portugal, Switzerland and Finland. Interestingly, around one in three Austrians, Czechs, Swiss, Latvians and Germans said they would use other methods of treatment.

“Natural remedies like herbal teas are very popular in some Europe countries, particularly in Germany, Austria and Switzerland,” observed Smith.

In Nielsen’s 2007 global healthcare survey, over one in three Austrians, Russians, Germans, Latvians and Poles claimed they used "home remedies" to cure their minor ailments. Over 10 percent of consumers in Netherlands, Hungary, Denmark and Finland said they never used medicines to treat a minor ailment.

Looking ahead, when global consumers were asked what would help them in understanding treatment of minor ailments in the future, one in two people said they would like more support from their doctor.

“Even in our multi-media society and at a time when governments are increasingly looking for consumers to take responsibility for their health and self-care, consumers still expect their doctor to play a key role in helping them take better care of their health and minor ailments,” said Smith.

Consumers in Asia Pacific (57%) led by Hong Kong, Korea and Philippines, topped global rankings in wanting more advice/support from their doctor while over half of Latin Americans (58%) said they would like more health education. In Europe, more than two in five French, Irish, Spanish and Portuguese said they would prefer more advice/support from their pharmacist.

"The pharmacist is already seen as a trusted and valued source of information in many European countries, and these results show that this has still more potential to build in the years ahead," said Smith.

Emerging markets in Latin America and Central/Eastern Europe topped global rankings for wanting clearer labeling and information on packaging.

The top five countries that responded positively to having clearer information on and inside the medicine pack all hail from the emerging markets of Brazil, Russia, Mexico, Latvia and Poland.

For consumers in many emerging markets, access to branded OTC medicines from multi-national manufacturers is a relatively new phenomenon. Not surprisingly for consumers in emerging markets, buying “a name I trust” is more important than in any other region. Eight out of the top ten countries which say “a name I trust” is an important factor in buying medicine hail from emerging markets, led by China where nearly one in two (48%) consumers will chose a trusted brand.

About The Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey

The Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey, conducted by Nielsen Customized Research, was conducted in April 2008 among 28,253 internet users in 51 markets from Europe, Asia Pacific, North America and the Middle East. The largest half-yearly survey of its kind, the Nielsen Global Online Consumer Confidence and Opinion Survey provides insight into current confidence levels, spending habits/intentions and the major concerns of consumers across the globe. The Nielsen Consumer Confidence Index is developed based on consumers’ confidence in the job market, status of their personal finances and readiness to spend.

About The Nielsen Company

The Nielsen Company is a global information and media company with leading market positions in marketing information (ACNielsen), media information (Nielsen Media Research), online intelligence (NetRatings and BuzzMetrics), mobile measurement, trade shows and business publications (Billboard, The Hollywood Reporter, Adweek). The privately held company is active in more than 100 countries, with headquarters in New York, USA. For more information, please visit,

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