So, what is at the top of our medication shopping lists?
Cough / cold medication (40%) and pain relievers (38%) are the top two medications bought over the counter by people globally in the last six months.
As this survey was conducted during what could be considered 'flu season' for many markets, it is perhaps of little surprise.
However, at the market level, there are some clear leaders in the purchase of these medications.
For pain relief, UAE residents are the top purchasers, with 72% having bought painkillers in the past six months. The UK (62%) and Australia (61%) are also big purchasers.
A case of prevention is better than a cure?
Apparently so, according to Karlsson:
"Most people in the UAE tend to carry around OTC painkillers and take them for even slight headaches, any signs of cold or flu, or other minor ailments. Headaches are common - most likely a result of a very hot climate outside combined with very cold air conditioning inside!"
At the other end of the scale is Taiwan at only 10%, followed by Hong Kong (15%), and Chile (17%).
Jenny Chang, Managing Director of Synovate Taiwan, attributes this to an affordable and accessible healthcare system in Taiwan:
"Compared to other countries, clinics and hospitals in Taiwan are generally more easily accessible and patients would rather seek a physician's professional advice, even for minor symptoms they are experiencing.
Besides, prescribed medications such as pain relievers or cough / cold medicines are mostly covered in the BNHI (Bureau of National Health Insurance) reimbursement scheme, which make them highly affordable to patients and may sometimes be even cheaper than OTC drugs.
"In addition, Taiwan has so many traditional Chinese clinics also covered in the BNHI that people will go there for natural fixes, like naprapathy." (Bodywork that manipulates the spine and connective tissue).
Indonesians (58%) are the top buyers of cough and cold medicines, closely followed by Koreans (56%).
As Robby Susatyo, Managing Director of Synovate Indonesia, explains, usage of over the counter cough and cold medicines is high because of a combination of factors:
"The weather here changes drastically - the sun shines in the morning and it rains the following hour. Before long, the sun is out again. This climate inconsistency increases susceptibility to feeling under the weather.
Jakarta is also one of the most populated cities in the world (ranked #3) so colds spread quickly. There is very limited medical insurance coverage so almost everyone pays for their own medication.
As doctor's fees are expensive, people tend to buy over the counter to self medicate. In addition, the advertising for over the counter products is very heavy. So much so, that even people who are not ill are motivated to buy."
For Koreans, it is more a matter of caution, explains Jellinek:
"Koreans are very cautious when it comes to disease, wearing masks at the onset of a cold, or when a nation-wide flu wave approaches.
This cautiousness is reflected in the administration of medicines that often come in much higher dosage than in Western countries.
However, Koreans are also known to be great advocates of traditional herbal medicine as well. A wide array of natural 'fixes' are available that offer an alternative to Western medicine, which is often frowned upon."