SCHERING WILL LAUNCH OXYMETAZOLINE PRODUCT INTO EYE DECONGESTANT MARKET WITH LONG-ACTING CLAIM; THREE OTC LINE EXTENSIONS ALSO PLANNED IN NEAR FUTURE
Schering-Plough is readying a long acting OTC oxymetazoline product, OcuClear, for launch into the ophthalmic decongestant market, Senior VP-OTC Products Jean-Pierre Garnier told security analysts at a Dec. 3 presentation in Kenilworth, New Jersey. The target for OcuClear wil be Pfizer's Visine, the dominant OTC ophthalmic decongestant. Garnier said that OcuClear "has a unique claim of longest lasting relief. It gets the red out faster and three times longer than Visine." Schering has been working on an oxymetazoline product for the eye for some time. An NDA for an oxymetazoline (0.025% solution) product for use as an ocular decongestant was given an "approvable" designation by FDA in January 1983. Oxymetazoline is the active ingredient in Schering's OTC nasal decongestant Afrin. In addition to the new product launch, Schering's near-term plans for its OTC drug business include the extensions of three product lines -- Drixoral, Afrin, and Fibre Trim, Garnier noted. Joining Fibre Trim "shortly" in the OTC weight loss market will be Fibre Trim with Calcium, targeted at dieting women who also take calcium supplements. Launched in early 1986, Fibre Trim is expected to gross $55 mil. in its first twelve months on the market, having cooled somewhat since last spring when Schering reported five-month sales of $44 mil. ("The Pink Sheet" June 16, p. 7). "We are looking at a very solid pipeline of new products," Garnier summarized. "We have several Rx-to-OTC possibilities, and we have also gained access to new technologies inside and outside the company, which will provide us with very interesting possibilities for the OTC market." Garnier attributed some of Fibre Trim's rapid success to the company's expanded presence in supermarkets, where "in excess of 45%" of the OTC pharmaceuticals in the U.S. are distributed. He said that Schering's increased foodstore penetration has been the result of a recently implemented marketing strategy. "Eighteen months ago, we decided to quickly realign our business strategies in order to take advantage of the changing [business] environment and restore OTC growth," Garnier expained, acknowledging the company's then-stagnant OTC business. Schering, which had traditionally relied on Rx-to-OTC switches and the promotion of OTCs to health care professionals, opted instead for a hybrid approach that included increased expenditures for consumer advertising. Garnier underscored the importance of foodstores in a market characterized by self-medication and by the availability of effective OTC drugs. "Before we could start advertising our products to the general public, we had to establish a strong foothold in the foodstores," he said. "In 1984 we had very good coverage at the drugstores but no coverage whatsoever at the foodstores; so we set up very quickly a national network of brokers, territory managers and merchandisers to go into those foodstores and make sure our products were visible." Fibre Trim exemplifies the company's success in this area. Garnier noted that in four months on the market the product had an 80% penetration at the food distribution level, while Ciba-Geigy's Accutrim "took three years to reach the same result." Schering said that of its top five major brands -- Afrin, Tinactin, CTM, Drixoral and Fibre Trim -- four have been moved from an exclusively ethical to the ethical/consumer hybrid promotional approach. Together, these five brands account for roughly 85% of Schering's OTC business.
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