Whether Prescribed or Over-the-Counter, Americans Prefer Generics

Millennials and those with children in the household are the most likely to reach for a brand name drug

Dec 02, 2015, 05:05 ET from The Harris Poll

NEW YORK, Dec. 2, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Whether they're looking to fill a prescription or to pick up an over-the-counter (OTC) remedy, Americans are reaching for generics over name brand drugs. Among those who purchase prescription drugs for themselves, nearly seven in ten (69%) say they would choose generic more often, when given a choice. Three in ten (30%) go as far as saying they would "always" choose generic.

While just 31% opt for a brand name script more often, Millennials are more likely than any other generation to do so (38% vs. 30% Gen Xers, 27% Baby Boomers & 22% Matures). Those with children in the household are also more likely to go the name-brand route, compared to those without (36% vs. 28%).

Americans tell a similar story for over-the-counter drug purchases as well. When given a choice, over six in ten purchasers (63%) say they would choose generic more often. Nearly one-quarter (24%) will "always" reach for the generic option. Older generations are more likely than their younger counterparts to go the generic route (68% both Matures & Baby Boomers vs. 62% Gen Xers & 58% Millennials).

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,255 U.S. adults surveyed online between August 12 and 17, 2015. Full results of this study, including data tables, can be found here.

Do it for the kids?
When it comes to purchasing medications for their kids, regardless of whether they're prescription or OTC, parents continue to reach for generics. For prescription purchases, over six in ten (61%) fill the scripts with a generic compared to the 34% who stick with the brand names.

While generics remain the favorite, the disparity between them and brand names does lessen when buying OTC medications for children. Just over half (52%) purchase generic OTC drugs for their children, while 42% reach for the brand name option.

Interestingly, for both prescription and OTC purchases, those in urban settings are nearly twice as likely to pick up a brand name drug for a child, compared to those in suburban or rural settings.

  • Purchases brand name prescription drugs for a child: 56% Urban vs. 26% Suburban & 24% Rural.
  • Purchases brand name over-the-counter drugs for a child: 63% Urban vs. 32% Suburban & 37% Rural.

When it comes down to the money
Looking at how much they're actually willing to pay for their own generic prescriptions, nearly half of purchasers (48%) say they would only pay $10 or less for a 30-day supply. Meanwhile, 31% would pay between $10.01 and $25.00 and 11% would pay between $25.01 and $50. Just 4% would be willing to shell out more than $50 for a generic-filled prescription for themselves. However, this number nearly triples when considering purchasing for a child. Eleven percent of those buying generic drugs for a child say they would pay over $50.

Interestingly, Millennials and those in households with children are all more likely to say they would pay over ten dollars out-of-pocket for generic prescription drugs.

  • 56% of Millennials vs. 51% Gen Xers, 37% Baby Boomers & 40% Matures
  • 54% of adults with children in their households vs. 42% of adults without

Where to get the goods
The vast majority of Americans purchase prescription and OTC medications (93% & 96%, respectively) and there are plenty of purchase channel options, but Americans have their favorites.

For prescription drugs, chain drug stores (think Walgreens or CVS) are the favorite, with half (50%) doing their Rx shopping at these locations. Other top marketplaces for scripts include discount stores (like Walmart or Target) (23%), a supermarket (18%), or online/by mail order (16%). Fewer utilize a local pharmacy (12%) or the pharmacy at a hospital or medical center (9%).

  • Compared to their younger counterparts, Older generations are more likely to purchase prescription drugs (98% Matures & 95% Baby Boomers vs. 90% Gen Xers & 91% Millennials), and they're also, perhaps surprisingly, more likely to turn to online channels to do so (27% & 24% vs. 10% & 7%).
  • Those with children in the household are more likely than those without to purchase from chain drug stores (58% vs. 46%), discount stores (30% vs. 20%), and local pharmacies (17% vs. 10%). On the other hand, those without kids in the house are more likely to purchase online (19% vs. 10%).

Turning to OTC drugs, two top contenders lead the field: discount stores are the top destination for these purchases, with 57% of Americans using them for OTC purchases; chain drug stores come in a close second with 51%. A third of adults visit supermarkets (32%), while one in ten hit local pharmacies (10%) and fewer utilize online/mail order (5%) or the pharmacy at a hospital or medical center (3%) for their OTC needs.

  • Millennials are more likely than all other generations to get the goods at chain drug stores (61% vs. 50% Gen Xers, 45% Baby Boomers, & 46% Matures).

You can find the full results with data tables, along with other recent Harris Polls, at TheHarrisPoll.com.

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This Harris Poll was conducted online, in English, within the United States between August 12 and 17, 2015 among 2,255 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words "margin of error" as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

The Harris Poll® #77, December 2, 2015
By Allyssa Birth, Senior Research Analyst, Harris Poll

About The Harris Poll® 
Begun in 1963, The Harris Poll is one of the longest running surveys measuring public opinion in the U.S. and is highly regarded throughout the world.  The nationally representative polls, conducted primarily online, measure the knowledge, opinions, behaviors and motivations of the general public.  New and trended polls on a wide variety of subjects including politics, the economy, healthcare, foreign affairs, science and technology, sports and entertainment, and lifestyles are published weekly.  For more information, or to see other recent polls, visit the Harris Poll News Room.

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