Be the go-to store for cold and flu season

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Actively market OTC products that ease cold and flu symptoms

In brief:

  • When cold and flu season hits, more people visit pharmacies than doctors’ offices.
  • OTC products for cold and flu symptoms are a multibillion-dollar market.
  • Without counseling, patients may not use the best products for their symptoms.
  • Start marketing these OTC products before cold and flu season hits.

Where Americans go for relief

Americans visit:1


Make trips to the pharmacy worthwhile for patients. Provide OTC products that alleviate symptoms and provide comfort. Target your marketing, store design and staff training to be ready with everything from lozenges to humidifiers.

Remind patients to stock up

In advance of cough and cold season — for example, during prescription pickup and med sync appointments — ask patients if they have OTC treatments on hand. This includes anesthetics, decongestants and cough expectorants.

Listen to patients and make recommendations


Ask patients:

  • Who are they treating? (Is it an adult or child?)
  • What are the symptoms? (See below about cold and flu differences)
  • What medical conditions does the patient have?

The number of OTC product choices can overwhelm patients. Confusion is likely to increase as more products hit the market in the next few years.

Keep in mind the differences in symptoms for flu and cold, and the medical conditions for each patient. Then, match your OTC recommendations to the patient. For example, if a patient has diabetes, be sure to suggest products free of sugars and alcohol.3 Where appropriate, Health Mart® products can save patients money while increasing your margins.

is-it-a-cold-or-flu?Source: CDC4

Suggest complementary products


You wouldn’t ask, “Would you like fries with your burger?” But you do want to offer OTC products that go together. For example, explain to parents the importance of medication spoons, droppers and oral syringes. Stock bottles of distilled water with the neti pots. Ask a patient checking out with a decongestant if she needs lozenges or tissues.


Don’t forget home remedies

Stay up to date on the research about natural and traditional remedies so you can counsel patients and offer healthful options, such as oral zinc.5 Consider placing locally produced honey or a great chicken soup on your shelves, too.6

When patients are feeling their worst, make your pharmacy the place they turn to for care and comfort.

Note: The information provided here is for reference use only and does not constitute the rendering of legal or other professional advice by McKesson. Readers should consult appropriate professionals for advice and assistance prior to making important decisions regarding their business. McKesson is not advocating any particular program or approach herein. McKesson is not responsible for, nor will it bear any liability for, the content provided herein.
1 Statistics on OTC Use, Consumer Healthcare Products Association. Accessed July 2018. LINK
2, 3 “Safe and Proper Use of Nonprescription Products for Cold and Flu Season,” Yvette C. Terrie, Pharmacy Times, Nov. 16, 2017. LINK
4 Cold Versus Flu, Centers for Disease Control. Accessed July 2018. LINK
5 “5 Tips: Natural Products for the Flu and Colds: What Does the Science Say?” National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Dec. 1, 2017. LINK
6 “Why Do We Eat Chicken Noodle Soup When We Are Sick?” Digestive Disorders, UPMC Health Beat, Feb. 15, 2014, updated Sept. 27, 2016. LINK