Clinical Topics & News

Over-the-Counter Topical Skin Products—A Common Component of Skin Disease Management

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Over-the-counter (OTC) products are widely recommended by physicians and utilized by the public for the treatment and prevention of disease. The use of OTC drugs has been studied extensively, but the patterns of physician recommendations for OTC topical skin products and the characteristics associated with patients receiving such recommendations remain unclear. We aimed to look at patterns of OTC topical skin product recommendations by physician specialty, patient demographics, geographical region, diagnosis, and metropolitan status to determine whether there are differences in the utilization of these products in the treatment of dermatologic conditions. We analyzed office-based physician visits for OTC topical skin product recommendations recorded in the 1995 to 2000 National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NAMCS). From 1995 to 2000, there were an estimated 36 million physician recommendations for OTC topical skin products. Although dermatologists were responsible for 53.8% of recommendations, pediatricians had the largest proportion of recommendations per prescription recommendation (OTC/Rx=0.58). Women patients, white patients, patients younger than 20 years, urban residents, and those living in the Southern United States received greater numbers of OTC topical skin product recommendations. Of the leading products recommended, hydrocortisone (27.6%), anti-infectives (23.4%), and moisturizers (13.4%) were the most common. OTC topical skin product recommendations by US physicians are substantial, particularly among dermatologists and primary care physicians. Physician specialty, gender, race, and age appear to be factors associated with those recommendations.


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