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OTC Artificial Tears Market

OTC Artificial Tears Market: Information by Product Type (Solution, Ointment, Emulsion, Gel), Container Type (Plastic Single-Dose Container, Spray), and Region — Forecast till 2030

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Market Snapshot

market snapshot
Base Year:
Study Period:
5.1 %
Fastest Growing Market:
Largest Market:
North America

The global OTC artificial tears market size was valued at USD 4,565 million in 2021, expected to advance to USD 6,797 million growing at a CAGR of 5.10% during the forecast period. Artificial tears are applied to protect and moisturize mucous membranes and alleviate dryness and irritation of the eyes. Artificial Tears is a specially formulated eye moisturizing solution. These eye drops can treat dry eyes caused by aging, specific medications, a medical condition, eye surgery, or environmental factors such as windy or smoky conditions. Artificial Tears alleviate the discomfort, irritation, and burning caused by dry eyes. Over-the-counter (OTC) artificial tears are those available without a prescription and sold directly to consumers. In addition to lubricating the eyes, certain artificial tears promote healing of the eyes, while others work to reduce tear evaporation. Artificial tears may also comprise thickening agents that keep the solution on the eye's surface for extended periods.

The global market for over-the-counter (OTC) artificial tears is primarily driven by an increase in the geriatric population, an alarming rise in the prevalence of dry eye syndrome (DES), and an increase in the number of eye surgeries, which leads to the rise for artificial tear drops for post-surgery management. In addition, changes in lifestyle habits, such as prolonged exposure to digital displays and an increase in the number of smartphone addicts, lead to dry eye syndrome, which increases the demand for artificial tears and drives the market growth. Moreover, as the number of eye surgeries rises, so does the need for artificial tear drops for post-operative care.

OTC Artificial Tears Market Share

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Market Dynamics

Global OTC Artificial Tears Market Drivers

Growing Prevalence of DES and Allergic Conjunctivitis

The availability of different dosage forms of over-the-counter artificial tears for the prevention, diagnosis, and management of patients with dry eye syndrome is one of the key factors driving the market growth. In 2019, the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) reported that approximately 3.2 million women and 1.68 million men were diagnosed with dry eye syndrome. If dry eye syndrome is left untreated for an extended period, it can lead to infection, vision blurring, and sensitivity. In addition, the incidence rate of distance vision impairment has been estimated to be four times higher in low- and middle-income countries than in high-income countries.

Over-the-counter artificial tears are also present in numerous formulations for treating dry eye syndrome, including eye drops, solutions, gels, suspension, and ointments. The distribution channels, such as hospital pharmacies, online pharmacies, and drug stores, are responsible for distributing medications to patients. Additionally, allergic conjunctivitis is one of the leading causes of eye inflammation. According to StartPearls, approximately 40% of the global population will be diagnosed with allergic conjunctivitis in 2021. Consequently, the rapid spread of allergic conjunctivitis and dry eye syndrome drives the OTC artificial tears market's expansion.

Growth in Geriatric Population

The aging of the global population drives the expansion of the global OTC artificial tears market. Eye diseases like dry eye, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, cataract, and presbyopia are most prevalent among the elderly. For example, according to data published by the United Nations, in 2019, there were approximately 703 million people over 65 years old. Globally, the proportion of the geriatric population over 65 increased from 6% in 1990 to 9% in 2019. The preponderance of dry eye in the elderly population ranges between 5% and 30%. An increase in the elderly population drives OTC artificial tears market expansion.

Global OTC Artificial Tears Market Restraints

Side-Effects and Risks Associated with OTC Artificial Tears Drugs

The side effects caused by over-the-counter artificial tears, such as itchiness, redness, swelling of the membranes surrounding the eye, and temporary blurred vision, are expected to restrain the market growth for OTC artificial tears. Due to the detergent impact on the lipid layer of the tear film, artificial tears containing preservatives cause ocular dryness as a side effect. Thus, a rise in the risk of side effects linked with over-the-counter artificial tears hinders market expansion.

Global OTC Artificial Tears Market Opportunities

Growing Research and Development by Major Players

Increases in the prevalence of dry eye disease and the aging population are anticipated to create lucrative positions for ophthalmic pharma firms in emerging economies. For instance, Bausch & Lomb, Inc., an eye health products company, launched a new Alaway preservative in February 2021. Antihistamine eye drops were provided free of charge to treat eye itching caused by allergens. It is the first product available over-the-counter for antihistamine eye drops.

Incorporating over-the-counter artificial tears into research and development is anticipated to generate market expansion opportunities. Major key players are also developing novel combinational over-the-counter artificial tears to treat eye diseases. In addition, research-based biopharmaceutical company AbbVie Inc. invested USD 6.6 billion in research and development in 2020. Thus, improvements in R&D are anticipated to create lucrative market expansion opportunities.


Segmental Analysis

The global OTC artificial tears market is classified based on product type, container type, formulation, application, distribution channel, and region. 

By Product Type

Depending on product type, the market is fragmented into Solution, Ointment, Emulsion, Gel, Spray Solution, and Suspension.

The solution type will have the largest share in the OTC artificial tears market, growing at a CAGR of 5.13% during the forecast period. The solution is a sterile liquid formulation that contains one or more chemical entities and active pharmaceutical ingredients dissolved in an appropriate solvent. Emollients and demulcents are the two main ingredients in artificial tear solutions. Due to an increase in demand for eye drops, the production of artificial tears for treating eye diseases, and advancements in ophthalmology research, the solution segment will dominate the market over the forecast period.

The ointment type will have the second-largest share. There are available semisolid and greasy eye ointments. These are directly injected into the conjunctiva sac and placed between the lower eyelid and the eyeball. The increase in demand for eye ointment, the incidence of dry eye syndrome and allergic conjunctivitis, and the number of key players manufacturing combinational semisolid ophthalmic drugs all contribute to the market's expansion.

By Container Type

Depending on container type, the fragments include Plastic Single-Dose containers, Plastic Multi-Dose containers, and Spray.

Plastic Multi-Dose Container is anticipated to have the largest share during the forecast period advancing a CAGR of 5.35%. Multiple-dose containers of plastic dropper bottles contain 10 milliliters of artificial tears solution for administration multiple times. The plastic multi-dose container contains a preservative solution to prevent the spread of pathogens. The rising prevalence of glaucoma and cataract, increase in the number of eye surgeries, government initiatives for the advancement of the healthcare industry, and advances in ophthalmology R&D are the key factors driving the market growth.

Plastic Single-Dose Container will have the second-largest share. The eye lubricant required for a single administration of the drug is contained in a small, transparent plastic vial containing an adequate quantity of eye lubricant for a single administration. Due to an increase in the aging population, the prevalence of dry eye syndrome, and the awareness of eye health management, it is anticipated that the plastic single-dose container segment will experience substantial market growth over the forecast period.

By Formulation

Depending on the formulation, the fragments include preservative-based and non-preservative-based.

Preservative-based will have the largest market share growing at the highest CAGR of 5.21% during the forecast period. A preservative is a chemical added to various products, such as food, beverages, and pharmaceutical drugs, to prevent microbial growth-induced decomposition. The artificial tears product includes preservatives to keep the solution sterile for a more extended period and prevent eye infections. Due to an increase in demand for eye drops, a rise in the production of artificial tears for the treatment of dry eye diseases, and advances in research and development for novel preservative-free artificial tears, this segment will dominate throughout the forecast period.

The non-preservative-based solution does not comprise a preservative agent. The preservative-free solution for artificial tears was available in single-use vials. Due to an increase in eye surgeries and technological advancement, the non-preservative-based market is anticipated to experience significant growth over the coming years.

By Application

Based on the application, the fragment includes Dry Eye Syndrome, Allergies, Infections, UV & Blue Light Protection, Contact Lens Moisture Retention, and Others.

Dry eye syndrome will hold the largest market share during the forecast period, advancing a CAGR of 4.63%. Dry eye syndrome is a chronic condition characterized by inadequate lubrication of the eyes by tears. Redness, itching, and burning sensation are some of the most common symptoms of dry eye. Changes in lifestyle habits, such as unsuitable diet and prolonged use of phones and laptops, are among the most influential factors in the onset of dry eye in the general population. Demand for over-the-counter (OTC) artificial tears used to treat dry eye conditions is fueled by an increase in the prevalence of eye disease among the geriatric population and a surge in digitalization, thereby contributing to the expansion of the global OTC artificial tears market.

Allergies will have the second-largest share. Eye allergies, also known as allergic conjunctivitis, are caused by the contact of an irritant (known as allergens) with the eyes. Eye allergies are one of the most prevalent diseases affecting people of all ages. Demand for the manufacturing and development of adequate anti-allergic over-the-counter artificial tears drives the market expansion.

By Distribution Channels

Based on distribution channels, the market is segmented as Hospital Pharmacies, Drug Stores & Retail Pharmacies, and Online Pharmacies.

Drug Stores & Retail Pharmacies are expected to hold the largest market share during the forecast period growing at a CAGR of 4.87%. The pharmacies sell the medications with or without prescriptions. The purpose of pharmacies in drug stores is to provide clinical services and accurate drug information to customers. Demand for over-the-counter artificial tear medications and government initiatives to advance the healthcare industry are the primary factors driving market expansion. The increase in digital technology adoption and screen time increases the demand for over-the-counter artificial tears.

Hospital pharmacies will have the second-largest share. Due to an increase in dry eye syndrome and allergic conjunctivitis, the hospital pharmacies segment is anticipated to experience substantial market growth during the forecast period. The most demanding production in hospital pharmacies is the sterile production of artificial tears drugs, conducted under the guidance of good manufacturing practices (GMPs).


Regional Analysis

The regional segmentation of the global OTC artificial tears market includes North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, the Middle East, and North Africa.

Why is North America and Europe Projected to be the Most Lucrative Market During the Assessment Period?

OTC Artificial Tears Market Regional Analysis

Regional Growth Insights Request Sample Pages

North America is most likely to hold the largest market share during the forecast period growing at a CAGR of 4.57%. North America will continue to dominate the market in terms of revenue during the forecast period, owing to the increasing prevalence of geriatrics, the expansion of health care infrastructure, the deployment of sophisticated products, and the presence of market leaders. Increasing incidence of dry eye syndrome and advances in ophthalmology R&D are anticipated to drive market growth. 

In addition, the increase in the number of eye surgeries is anticipated to contribute to the region's dominance during the study period. For example, according to figures released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 4.2 million Americans aged 40 and older have legal blindness or low vision. Cataracts and glaucoma are the leading causes of blindness in the U.S.

Europe will have the second-largest market share of USD 2,008 million, growing at a CAGR of 5.25% by 2030. The spike in the proportion of cataract surgeries, the existence of key market players, technological advances in the healthcare sector, and the adoption of contact lenses are the primary factors driving the market growth. Europe's growing technical advancement in ophthalmology is viewed as the market's primary driving force. Due to the rapid adoption of artificial tears in Europe, the market for artificial tears sold over the counter is increasing. Demand for over-the-counter (OTC) artificial tears to alleviate itching, irritation, redness, and burning sensations increases as cataract surgery becomes more prevalent in Europe. 

Asia-Pacific will grow at the highest CAGR during the forecast period. Due to an increase in the elderly population, the number of cataract and glaucoma surgeries, and environmental pollution, the Asia-Pacific market is anticipated to experience significant growth over the forecast period. China and India have many patients suffering from dry eye, making them highly attractive investment markets. Moreover, the increase in the number of patients diagnosed with dry eye syndrome and the rise in awareness programs for the prevention and management of the ocular disease is anticipated to provide growth offers for the manufacturer of novel artificial tear products and boost the growth of the global market for over-the-counter artificial tears.

Increment in the geriatric population, increase in cataract and glaucoma surgeries, and advances in R&D drive market growth. Environmental pollution is one of the leading causes of ocular disease, which in turn causes irritation and dry eye syndrome. In addition, China's pollution index of 81.12 indicates an increase in environmental pollution. Those who reside in areas with a high risk of air pollution are more likely to suffer from dry eye disease.


Players of the Market

  • AbbVie, Inc.
  • Akorn, Inc.
  • Alcon
  • Bausch & Lomb
  • Johnson & Johnson
  • Ocusoft
  • Santen Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd
  • Similasan Corporation
  • Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Limited 
  • Ursapharm Arzneimittel GmbH


Recent Developments

  • In 2022, Akorn, Inc. announced the completion of its sale of seven branded ophthalmic products to Théa Pharma.
  • In 2022, Bausch & Lomb announced the launch of Reviveä Custom Soft Contact lenses.


Global OTC Artificial Tears Market: Segmentation

By Product Type

  • Solution
  • Ointment
  • Emulsion
  • Gel
  • Spray Solution
  • Suspensions

By Container Type

  • Plastic Single-Dose Container
  • Plastic multi-dose containers
    • Preservative-Free System
    • Preserved System
  • Spray
    • Preservative-Free System
    • Preserved System

By Formulation

  • Preservative Based
  • Non-Preservative Based

By Application

  • Dry Eye Syndrome
  • Allergies
  • Infections
  • UV & Blue Light Protection
  • Contact Lens Moisture Retention
  • Others

By Distribution Channel

  • Hospital Pharmacies
  • Drug Store & Retail Pharmacies
  • Online Pharmacies

By Region

  • North America
  • Europe
  • Asia-Pacific
  • Middle-East
  • North Africa
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