Disease Snapshot: Consumer Impact of Seasonal Influenza in the US

September 2017

Seasonal influenza has a significant impact on sales of cough, cold and allergy products, particularly in years when the influenza vaccine is less effective. Consumers turn to a number of products during the flu season, including vitamins and dietary supplements for prevention, combination CCAs and nasal sprays for fevers and coughs, and tissue products for nasal congestion. This report looks at the consumer health impact of seasonal influenza in the US, focusing on 2014/2015.

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The biggest determinant of how severe a flu season will be (and therefore how OTC sales will be affected) is the vaccine’s match with the circulating strain

Beyond trends in consumer preferences, the single biggest determinant in how severe a flu season will be (and therefore how much consumers will spend on their “basket” of flu products), is how closely the annual vaccine matches that year’s dominant circulating strain of flu. In a high match year, sales of flu products decline, and in a low match year, sales of flu products surge in response.

Only about 62% of US consumers consider an annual flu vaccination as necessary for their health

Despite the fact that vaccines for seasonal influenza are readily available and commonly offered at no cost to the consumer, only about 62% of US consumers consider getting a flu vaccination as necessary for their health. Those who do not get a flu vaccination report that their main reasons for not doing so include not believing flu to be a serious concern and not believing that the vaccine works.

US consumers have a “basket” of goods they consider essential “must haves” for flu season, with women finding more products essential than men

During flu season, US consumers generally consider a set “basket” of goods essential to maintaining their health and controlling their symptoms, including cough and cold medications, facial tissues and hand sanitisers, among others. More women consider these products as “essential” than men do, though there is no strong evidence that women get sick more often than men, or suffer worse symptoms.

Overall, US consumers prefer combination cough/cold products that can address multiple symptoms at once

Within the category of cough, cold and allergy medications (CCAs), US consumers spend the most on combination products, totalling more than USD3.2 billion in sales in 2016. US consumers are drawn to the convenience that combination products offer by addressing more than one symptom at once in the same product.

Impact of Seasonal Influenza in the US

Key findings
Preparing for the influenza season of 2017/2018
Which factors contribute to the severity of seasonal influenza?
How do the US and Western Europe differ in their responses?
Americans’ attitudes towards the flu vaccination
Consumers relatively uninformed despite easy vaccine availability
Vaccination coverage and seasonal severity
What are Americans’ “must-haves” for flu season?
Further demographic breakdown in attitudes toward flu
Flu “basket” products and association with vaccine efficacy
What do consumers take when they get sick?
Popular flu medication brands by rank
Brand spotlight: Robitussin (Pfizer)
Brand spotlight: Mucinex (RB)
Brand spotlight: Halls (Mondelez)
What about other preventative measures?
Which “immune boosting” products are most popular?
Rx antivirals


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