The informal market for medicines across the world
March 5th, 2024, Janice Fernandes

The informal market for medicines across the world

In a recent YouGov survey, nearly two in five respondents expressed a preference for self-medication based on past success. In a similar vein, we measured consumer willingness to pursue medicines via alternatives means when official routes are inaccessible.

Roughly a fifth of consumers (19%) across all 17 surveyed markets acknowledged a willingness to consider buying medicine from “unofficial” sources. However, a majority of respondents (62%) assert that they would not consider doing so.

A deeper dive into the data, focusing on the breakdown by country, reveals that in most APAC markets, a higher percentage of consumers lean towards the unofficial route. Indonesia stands out, with 33% of respondents expressing a willingness to consider buying medicines from unofficial sources—the highest among the surveyed countries. Hong Kong follows closely with 27%, trailed by Australia and India (21% each).

Consumers in the European region generally exhibit a lower inclination to explore alternative avenues. Italians, however, defy the trend, with 23% indicating a willingness to consider unofficial sources. Spain and France, on the other hand, stand at the opposite end of the spectrum, with the lowest percentage of respondents considering such sources (14% each).

A fifth of Swedes (20%) express an openness for purchasing medicines from unofficial sources, but fewer Danes are less likely to agree with this sentiment (14%). In Great Britain, roughly one in six consumers (16%) are open to exploring alternate options for purchasing medicines.

The inclination towards obtaining medicines via unofficial sources remains consistent among North American consumers, with 19% of respondents in the United States and 18% in Canada expressing a similar mindset to total respondents surveyed.

How does age factor in?

According to polling data, consumers aged between 25 and 54 years old exhibit a greater likelihood than both the youngest (18-24) and oldest (55+) consumers to contemplate purchasing medicines from unofficial sources. This pattern remains consistent across most of the surveyed markets.

On average, approximately one-fifth of US consumers within the 25 to 54 age range express a willingness to explore alternate sources for their medicine purchases. In contrast, this figure decreases to 12% among 18-24-year-olds and 17% among those aged 55 and above.

As for Brits, 10% of 18-24-year-olds indicate a willingness to consider buying medicines from unofficial sources, while 18% of 35-44-year-olds share a similar sentiment, revealing a notable contrast in age-related attitudes towards alternative medicine channels.

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Methodology: YouGov Surveys: Serviced provide quick survey results from nationally representative or targeted audiences in multiple markets. The data is based on surveys of adults aged 18+ years in 17 markets with sample sizes varying between 502 and 2,023 for each market. All surveys were conducted online in December 2023. Data from each market uses a nationally representative sample apart from Mexico and India, which use urban representative samples, and Indonesia and Hong Kong, which use online representative samples. Learn more about YouGov Surveys: Serviced.

Image: Getty Images