Case Studies of the National Retail Data Monitor

There is a systematic effort to study the effects of outbreaks on OTC sales data that is part of the National Retail Data Monitor (NRDM) project. (We discuss the project itself in greater detail in Section 5 of this chapter.) Each case study describes the effect of a single outbreak or other public health event, such as low air quality due to forest fires, on OTC sales (and other types of data available for the event). At present, these case studies are available only to authorized public health users of the NRDM system because of legal agreements between the NRDM and retailers.

One case study found that sales of bronchial remedies increased dramatically on the same day that air quality in southern California deteriorated significantly due to smoke from wildfires.

Two case studies of influenza outbreaks found that sales of thermometers increased significantly and early during the course of the 2003-2004 influenza outbreak. One of these case studies also found that sales of pediatric cough syrups and pediatric antifever medications were also a timely indicator of the influenza outbreak.

table 22.1 Summary of Studies of Informational Value of Over-the-Counter Sales by Product Category

Category

Positive

Negative

References

Pediatric electrolytesa

Can detect winter diarrheal/respiratory outbreaks in children ages 5 and under earlier than hospital data

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