Germany’s Over-the-Counter (OTC) Pharmaceutical Market

Written by: Lucy Walters
Published on: 8 Jun 2021

DE (OTC) Pharmaceutical Market

How Big is Germany’s OTC Drugs Market?

Germany’s Over-the-Counter (OTC) pharmaceutical drugs market is widely recognised as the largest in Europe. According to a report published by Market Data Forecast, Germany’s OTC drug market reached an estimated value of $7.67 billion in 2020, and is expected to reach $8.53 billion within 5 years. Some of the most commonly marketed OTC medicines in Germany include Acetaminophen, Aspirin, Ibuprofen, Voltaren Gel, and Dorithricin.

According to data from Germany Trade and Invest (GTAI), remedies for respiratory system and pain treatments account for the largest share of overall OTC drug sales via pharmacies, and in 2019:

  • The vitamins and minerals segment grew by 6.8%, with revenue exceeding EUR 1.1 billion – demonstrating the highest growth rate in the market.
  • Sales of probiotics increased 7% and reached EUR 163 million.
  • The sales volume of eye medicines grew by 4.9%, 3.7% for vitamins and minerals, and 3.6% for remedies for the bladder and reproductive system.
  • Phytopharmaceuticals and homeopathic remedies made up 31% of total non-prescription drug sales in pharmacies.

This report also lists the following companies as some of the key contributors to the size of Germany’s OTC Drugs market in 2020:

  • Bayer Beijing
  • GlaxoSmithKline
  • Harbin Pharmaceutical Group
  • Jiangzhong Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd
  • Novartis
  • Renhe (Group) Development Co., Ltd
  • Tianjin SK&F Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd
  • Wyeth Pharmaceutical
  • Xi-an-Janssen Pharmaceutical
  • Yangtze River Pharmaceutical Group
  • Yunnan Baiyao Group Co., Ltd
  • Zhejiang Conba Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd

What Makes Germany’s OTC Drugs Market Unique?

In the UK, OTC drugs are often bought in drugstore chains such as Superdrug and Boots, alongside other products including everything from make-up and hair dye to baby food and scented candles, with stores solely selling OTC drugs being hard to come by. In Germany, however, this is not the case.

Whilst these types of drugstores can also be found in Germany, the Apotheke is still the go-to place for a person needing medicine. With Apotheke staff being highly trained professionals, many customers feel that visits here are often more informative and less time-consuming than visiting a doctor, making self-medication an overall more accessible solution for many.

Statistics suggest that 20% of OTC drug sales in Germany can be traced back to a recommendation from a pharmacist, whilst only 14% of sales can be traced back to a doctor’s recommendation.

What are the Biggest Factors for Growth in Germany’s OTC Drugs Market?

According to Germany Trade and Invest (GTAI), some of the reasons for Germany’s growth in the OTC Drugs market include the following:

  • More prescription-only medicines are gaining a non-prescription status. Between 2007 and 2020, this was the case for 25 treatments.
  • A bigger focus on preventative healthcare and self-medication within society due to an increase in health awareness levels, driven by health and wellness trends and a stronger desire to live longer, healthier lives. People are becoming more willing than ever to financially invest in their own health and wellbeing.
  • The popularity of traditional brick-and-mortar pharmacies which act as the main distribution channel for OTC drugs in Germany, due to the high levels of trust that society places in them. GTAI data shows that in 2019, 75% of revenue from OTC drugs in Germany was generated by around 19,000 local pharmacies, which highlights the huge role that these traditional pharmacies – or Apotheke’s – play in the country’s healthcare system.

Other factors for the increase in self-medication in Germany also include the rising healthcare costs in the country, making OTC drugs a more affordable and accessible option for many.

How Has COVID-19 Impacted Germany’s OTC Market?

According to a recent report from Sempora Consulting GmbH, sales of OTC medicines in Germany in the first few months of 2021 have been significantly lower than in previous years, especially for brick-and-mortar pharmacies. The report shows that in the first 15 weeks of 2021:

  • Total sales of OTC medicines were 17% lower than in 2020.
  • Sales of OTC medicines from brick-and-mortar pharmacies were 19% lower than in 2020.
  • Sales of OTC medicines from mail-order pharmacies were 7% lower than in 2020.

Not only have the volumes of medicines bought been affected by the pandemic, but the types of products being bought by consumers has unsurprisingly changed too. The report also shows that in the first 15 weeks of 2021:

  • Sales of vitamin A and D supplements were up by 15% compared to 2020.
  • Mail-order sales of vitamin A and D supplements were up 123% compared to 2020.

However, the report does also show that by the 15th week, total sales had begun to return to the same levels seen in 2020, although this progress may not continue to rise throughout the year as Germany faces its 3rd wave of COVID-19 in May.  


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