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Marion Merrell Dow is launching a three-month, $6 mil. direct-to-consumer magazine ad campaign for Seldane designed to bring in $35 mil. in additional sales in the upcoming allergy season. The first ad in the campaign is running in the April 2 issue of People magazine. For the next three months, the ad will run in a wide group of consumer publications including Time, Better Homes and Gardens, USA Today, Parade and Sports Illustrated. The campaign is keyed to the headline: "You have tried just about everything for your hay fever...Have you tried your doctor?" The ad campaign was developed by Medicus Intercom. Marion Merrel Dow Exec VP-Chief Operating Officer David Sharrock introduced the campaign at a meeting with wholesalers in Naples, Florida on April 5. "This week we are kicking off what we are convinced is the most exciting and most extensive consumer promotion activity ever for a prescription product," Sharrock declared. Marion Merrell Dow (MMD) "mailed the initial information to physicians to tell them what's coming" on the program on April 4, Sharrock reported. He stressed that the combination of the product name with the appropriate indication is "being done with the approval of the FDA." MMD's stepped up efforts, however, coincide with signals from Rep. Dingell's (D-Mich.) staff that a reemergence in Congressional oversight of FDA's posture on direct-to-consumer advertising might be forthcoming (see related story, page 7). Sharrock cited the $35 mil. extra sales estimate in his presentation to the wholesalers. In 1989, the product generated$306 mil. in sales in the U.S. and $90 mil. in foreign sales. Sharrock was speaking to the wholesaler group with the new corporate title of chief operating officer for the combined companies. The appointment was approved March 30. He will report to MMD President Fred Lyons. The chairman of the combined companies is Joseph Temple, formerly the Dow exec in charge of building Merrell-Dow. Sharrock's appointment balances out the number of key management positions awarded to Marion execs, who had been getting many of the top U.S. pharmaceutical operating positions. The top exec in the pharmaceutical area is Marion Merrell Dow/USA President Harley Tennison, a 13-year veteran of Marion. James McGraw, the second-in-charge at Marion during its big growth period in the 1980s, is taking early retirement in mid-summer. McGraw is an exec VP and was a co-equal with Sharrock before the decision to retire. Marion Merrell Dow research head Walter Lovenberg is also a corporate exec VP in the merged businesses. * The Seldane ads continue a trend of increased promotion for the product. Beginning in January, Seldane was the first prescription product from the combined Marion and Merrell Dow lines to get the full attention of both the Marion and Merrell Dow U.S prescription sales forces. The combined company is maintaining the separate sales forces during the consolidation period. Based on the recent Seldane co-promotions, MMD has seen increased prescription activity for the product. "The weekly script data in February and March is at the highest rate of increase that it has been in the past 15 months," Sharrock reported. The consumer advertising also paves the way for the planned Rx-to-OTC switch for terfenadine. Sharrock indicated that Seldane is likely to be the first of MMD's switch candidates to reach the OTC market. Seldane, "of course,...is the first [product] that we will have to move into the OTC category," Sharrock told the wholesalers. "We will continue our direct-to-consumer campaign and will expand that into a full-blown OTC campaign when appropriate." MMD is currently developing at least three new versions of Seldane: (1) a decongestant combo, Seldane-D, which is still pending at FDA; (2) a once-daily version of Seldane, for which an NDA was submitted during the first quarter of 1990; and (3) a suspension formulation, for which an NDA was also recently submitted. Sharrock appears to have hinted at the dosage form for the OTC switch candidate by pointing out to the wholesalers that "two" of the current Seldane filings will be for prescription products. The possibilities can be narrowed down to either the once-daily version or the suspension. Seldane-D has been a pending prescription project for a number of years and is not likely to be the initial switch candidate. MMD, in fact, has been expecting a Seldane-D approval imminently for more than half a year. In the spring of last year, MMD said that the product application had reached the last level of review at FDA and predicted that the product could be ready for the autumn 1989 allergy season. The other MMD switch candidate is being pursued as a suspension. Carafate is being developed in that formulation in cooperation with Schering-Plough. Carafate is ripe for a switch and can use a change of market to stave off potential generic competition and to bolster stagnant sales. Carafate volume tapered off a bit during 1989 (down 5% to$80 mil.), presumably as its promotion effort got lost in the merger and the launch of Cardizen SR. Because both Seldane and Carafate continue to be major prescription contributors, Sharrock said that MMD is committed to maintain Rx versions of the products after the introduction of OTC formulations. "Importantly," Sharrock told the wholesalers, "we plan to...maintain a strong Rx franchise for those same brandnames. We believe these efforts will be highly successful and will enable us to build both an OTC business and a prescription drug business." The new Seldane ads take up over two-and-a-third pages and contains a one-column brief summary. The advertisement says: "If the OTC allergy products you've tried have disappointed you, consider this." The ads go on to state that no OTC antihistamine "can relieve allergy symptoms...without risk of drowiness," and OTC decongestants can only relieve nasal congestion. "The solution," the ads say, is to "see your doctor." The ads specifically encourage patients to ask their doctors "if Seldane (terfenadine) is right for you." The ads contain a chart that compares the benefits and attributes of Seldane and OTC allergy categories. An 800 telephone number also is provided to offer a booklet on "the facts about what allergy medicines do...and don't do." Although Merrell Dow has been running non-product specific television ads for Seldane since 1986 during spring and fall allergy seasons, the new ads represent the first time the company has used ads for Seldane that mention the antihistamine by name and include a brief summary of prescribing information. MMD says that there are no plans to extend the product-specific campaign to TV. The more aggressive Seldane ads may also reflect continued efforts to protect against encroachments by Janssen's nonsedating prescription antihistamine Hismanal (astemizole). Hismanal, which has been on the market in the U.S. for about a year-and-a-half, has the advantage over Seldane of having a once-daily dosing schedule. Janssen ran non-product specific consumer ads for Hismanal during the spring and summer of 1989 in major newspapers. The "see your doctor" ads read: "Who can fight allergies 24 hours a day? Your doctor." The one-page ads said that "If you're tired of being tired from your allergy treatment, you should see your doctor. Because [he] can help you find 24-hour allergy relief." Janssen said that it has not decided whether it will run consumer ads again in the near future. Hismanal is pulling in about $4 mil./month, with 1989 sales of approximately $44 mil. after 11 months on the market, according to 1989 marketing information from the prescription audit firm Pharmaceutical Data Services. Marion Merrell Dow's most recent print and television ads for its nicotine-containing smoking cessation gum Nicorette were the company's first consumer ads to mention a prescription drug by name. The firm had previously run non-product specific consumer print and television ads for Nicorette.