Direct-To-Consumer Advertising of Over-the-Counter Sinonasal Remedies: A History of Mixed Messages

Laryngoscope. 2020 Sep;130(9):2114-2119. doi: 10.1002/lary.28366. Epub 2019 Oct 25.


Sinus, cold, and allergy remedies comprise the most widely used sector of the over-the-counter (OTC) drug market. Direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA) of pharmaceutical products has increased over the past 30 years, including the promotion of OTC drugs. The influence of DTCA on OTC sinonasal remedies comprises several positive and negative effects. Favorable aspects of this influence include empowerment and promotion of autonomy among patients, avoidance of low-value clinical encounters, self-directed education, and decreased healthcare expenditures. This is balanced by potential concerns, including the lack of rigorous regulation of OTC drugs, the burden of self-diagnosis, the risk of unsupervised use resulting in adverse effects or drug interactions, and redistribution of pharmacy costs to the consumer. Despite the proliferation of product options and consumer-directed information, healthcare utilization and cost of treating sinonasal disease remains high. Moreover, the availability of OTC sinonasal remedies and exposure to DTCA has had mixed effects without apparent overall benefit to patient and consumer health. Laryngoscope, 130:2114-2119, 2020.

Keywords: Pharmaceuticals; allergy; autonomy; cold; marketing; over-the-counter; sinus.

MeSH terms

  • Consumer Behavior / economics
  • Consumer Behavior / statistics & numerical data*
  • Consumer Health Information
  • Direct-to-Consumer Advertising / economics
  • Direct-to-Consumer Advertising / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Direct-to-Consumer Advertising / trends*
  • Drug and Narcotic Control
  • Humans
  • Nonprescription Drugs / economics
  • Nonprescription Drugs / therapeutic use*
  • Paranasal Sinus Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Paranasal Sinus Diseases / economics
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States


  • Nonprescription Drugs