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Barbara Sax
Published Online: Thursday, May 1, 2003   [ Request Print ]

Aging Boomers Drive OTC Growth
Aging baby boomers with a strong aversion to getting older had a big impact on new products last year. Although 2002 was not a big year for standout products, there were a few significant entries that made an impact.

Products that helped the over-50 set look and feel younger were among the most successful new launches. Whether it was the powerhouse whitening-toothpaste category or the growing external-analgesic category, the buying power of the boomer generation was evident in the products that made the biggest splash in OTC sales in 2002.

Claritin Switch Big News
The biggest OTC news of the year was an end-of-year Rx-to-OTC switch, this time in the form of Schering-Plough Corp?s Claritin (loratadine), which received an FDA-approved switch in mid-December. This switch was particularly interesting because it was not the manufacturer that originally lobbied hard for the change from prescription-only status. California-based WellPoint Health Networks, a third-party insurer that claimed to spend millions on prescription Claritin annually, rallied the FDA for the switch, despite Schering-Plough?s initial resistance.

In the new OTC version, Claritin, long a top prescription performer, brought a significant point of difference to the OTC allergy-relief category: the product is the first nonsedat-ing formula to hit the market. Other OTC allergy products, so-called first generation antihistamines, generally cause drowsiness?the most common side effect from OTC allergy medications, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI).

Loratadine?s nonsedating properties make it very attractive to patients dissatisfied with previous OTC allergy-relief options?and statistics indicate that it has a big market. The ACAAI estimates that 44% of allergy patients using OTC products switch medications because they have not been satisfied with products they have tried previously. Claritin?s steep retail price may be a deterrent to some patients. Generic diphenhydramine (Benadryl?s active ingredient) or chlorpheniramine (ChlorTrimeton?s active ingredient) costs $3 to $4 for 24 to 30 tablets, whereas the same number of Claritin tablets can run a patient $20 or more.

As with any Rx-to-OTC switch, Claritan was soon followed to market by competitors.  Wyeth Consumer Healthcare's loratadine product, Alaver, is alread on store shelves, with a suggested reatil price of $27 for a 48-count package.  Generic versions are waiting in the wings for their market debuts.  In other category news, retailers game high marks to Bayer's Aleve Sinus & Headache product, a line extension introduced last year.

Prilosec Switch to OTC on the Horizon
As the most-prescribed drug in the world from 1996 to 2000, Prilosec will undoubtedly attract many self-treaters if it moves to OTC status later this year, as expected. Health professionals expect the availability of a prescription strength of omeprazole OTC to stimulate discussion about optimal treatments for conditions such as heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) between patients and pharmacists.
The OTC will be indicated for short-term use for treating persistent heartburn with labeling advising users to see a physician if symptoms persist. GERD will not be among the indications for the OTC version.

Delivery Innovation in a Swab
Retailers gave a ?thumbs up? to Matrixx Initiatives? Zicam Cold Remedy nasal swabs. Zicam, a homeopathic nasal gel introduced in 1999, has become one of the fastest growing brands in the cold and allergy category. The new individually wrapped nasal swabs, introduced in August 2002, have proven to be a popular line extension.

Jim Marini, national sales manager for Matrixx, said that the company introduced a swab delivery system to help overcome consumer resistance to nasal spray delivery. The approach has apparently worked.

?The swab delivery system is something really new, and consumers seemed to really like it,? said Steve Giroux, owner of Middleport Family Health Center in Middleport, NY.

In fact, swab delivery systems showed up in a number of categories. Q-tips Treat & Go first-aid antibiotic was introduced by Unilever in March, and Chattem introduced pHisoderm Clear Swabs in May. Oragel also introduced medicated swabs for toothache pain relief.

?People seem to be interested in the swab delivery system because it?s more sanitary,? said Kyle Lentz, an industry analyst for Hamacher Resource Group. ?Swab delivery of other medications will be successful in cases where a fine touch is needed?for example, around the mouth,? said Valerie Skala, vice president of analytic product management and development at Information Resources Inc (IRI). The swab delivery approach may be something to watch in other categories in 2003.

Pain Relief in a Patch, Not a Pill
The Big hit in the pain relief, or analgesic, category, came in the form of a patch rather than a pill.  Proctor & Gamble's (P&G) ThermaCare atr-activated external pain-relieving patches, introduced in January 2002, were on several industry watchers? short lists of best OTC introductions for the year. Three ThermaCare products have already won a place on Hamacher Resource Group?s Top 1,000 HBC list and have performed ?above and beyond expectations,? according to Lentz.

?The patches are a new form of pain relief that offers something new to the market,? said Lentz. ?It doesn?t hurt that they are backed by P&G?s big ad budget and they are placed in the analgesic section to give patients an alternative to internal analgesics.? Indeed, P&G classifies the line of single-use ThermaCare patches as pain-relief products and markets them competitively with analgesics. ?There is a tremendous amount of growth potential for the thermal-analgesics category created by Therma-Care,? said P&G spokesperson Blayne Smith. ?ThermaCare provides superior pain relief without the side effects or safety risks of using internal analgesics.? Growth also will be fueled by line extensions developed to treat specific body parts or joints not covered by ThermaCare?s current lineup.

Whiteners Still Dazzling
Consumers cannot seem to get enough of tooth whiteners. Colgate?s Simply White Gel was a hit for 2002 and was followed later in the year by an overnight formula, Simply White Night.  Not to be outdone, P&G introduced its own overnight forumula, White White strips Night Effects.

?The tooth whitening category is projected to double in sales over the next 3 years,? said IRI?s Skala. ?Many professional services are successfully being brought to mass market retail.? The other strong new performer was Crest Plus Scope tooth-paste, which combines a mouthwash and a paste in 1 formula. ?Oral care is so complex now,? said Hamacher?s Lentz. ?People aren?t just brushing to fight cavities anymore. They are so image-conscious, and they?re willing to spend more on products that produce results.? Some industry experts dismiss the combo product as a flash in the pan. ?Remember toothpaste in a pump?? asked Skala. ?It is just an attempt to make a product seem new and different when it really isn?t.? Different or not, Crest?s new paste made Hamacher?s list of Top 1,000 items?an accomplishment for a new product of any type.

For a list of references, send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to: References Department, Attn. D. Campagnola, Pharmacy Times, 241 Forsgate Drive, Jamesburg, NJ 08831; or send an e-mail request to: dcampagnola@mwc.com.

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