The impact of over-the-counter availability of nasal sprays on sales, prescribing, and physician visits

Scand J Prim Health Care. 1999 Mar;17(1):41-5. doi: 10.1080/028134399750002881.


Objective: The aim was to study changes in sales and prescribing of nasal decongestants containing oxymetazoline or xylometazoline, changes in number of physician visits for rhinitis and sinusitis, and changes in public expenditures for physician visits due to the switch of these drugs from prescription to over-the-counter status in Sweden in 1989.

Design: Retrospective registry study using the local sales statistics on medicines in the municipality of Tierp from The National Corporation of Swedish Pharmacies and the individual-based computerised registry in Tierp based on health care utilisation and drug use from the Centre for Primary Care. Analyses were carried out during the time period 1988-1995.

Setting: The Swedish community of Tierp with about 20,000 inhabitants.

Subjects: The population of Tierp.

Main outcome measure: Sales of nasal decongestants and dispensed prescriptions of nasal decongestants, physician visits for rhinitis and sinusitis, and public expenditures for these.

Results: Sales of nasal sprays increased, while sales of nasal drops decreased. The number of dispensed prescriptions as well as physician visits decreased. The public expenditures estimated for physician visits decreased as well.

Conclusion: This study shows an increase in sales of nasal decongestants and a significant decrease in prescribing of nasal decongestants and the number of physician visits for rhinitis and sinusitis as well as the public expenditures estimated for these, after the switch from prescription to over-the counter status of nasal sprays in 1989.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Drug Prescriptions / economics
  • Drug Prescriptions / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Expenditures*
  • Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Imidazoles / economics
  • Imidazoles / therapeutic use
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nasal Decongestants / economics*
  • Nasal Decongestants / therapeutic use
  • Nebulizers and Vaporizers
  • Nonprescription Drugs / economics*
  • Nonprescription Drugs / therapeutic use
  • Oxymetazoline / economics
  • Oxymetazoline / therapeutic use
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Rhinitis / drug therapy
  • Sinusitis / drug therapy
  • Sweden


  • Imidazoles
  • Nasal Decongestants
  • Nonprescription Drugs
  • Oxymetazoline
  • xylometazoline