ACID BLOCKERS GOBBLE SHARE;OTC ARRIVALS PUT PRESSURE ON LONGSTANDING BRANDS:NEW OTC RIVALS HURT ROLAIDS AND MAALOX

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The stomach remedy market has swelled nearly 20% to accommodate the new over-the-counter acid blockers, and several older brands have suffered upsets.

The market grew to $1.3 billion for the year ended Jan. 28, according to Information Resources Inc., largely due to the appearance of Pepcid AC and Tagamet HB.

In May, Warner Wellcome Consumer Healthcare's Zantac 75 will finally hit the market, almost a year after Johnson & Johnson/Merck's Pepcid AC, the first stomach acid blocker.

$125 MILLION BACKS ZANTAC

As the third entry, the OTC Zantac is set to get $125 million in marketing support from J. Walter Thompson USA, New York. That would make the new brand competitive with Pepcid AC and Tagamet HB, from SmithKline Beecham.

The media support will hit the market by June.

"Zantac's big concern is that it's late and that Pepcid is almost becoming synonymous with the segment," said one industry observer.

Speed to market has become accepted as a marketing necessity in OTC conversions. Pepcid AC, though the first approved by the Food & Drug Administration, raced to shelves in six weeks, a possible record; Tagamet HB reached stores more than two months after its approval.

Zantac, cleared by the FDA in December, is the slowest yet, while American Home Products/Eli Lilly's Axid still awaits final OK.

PEPCID RANKED NO. 3

Pepcid AC is now the No. 3 brand in the market, commanding nearly a 12% share. Tagamet has lagged but nevertheless has taken the No. 7 spot.

Illustrative of the competitive tension, legal tussles continue between J&J/Merck and SmithKline Beecham over claims in each other's advertising. And print ads from Pepcid AC already are taking on Zantac.

Compton Partners and Ogilvy & Mather handle Pepcid AC and Tagamet HB, respectively.

As predicted, the older brands have suffered, some of them heavily. While J&J and SmithKline Beecham are balancing the cannibalization of their own Tums and Mylanta products with the new entries, other marketers including Ciba-Geigy Corp. and Warner Wellcome can't compensate for double-digit sales losses.

After adding magnesium and repackaging its Rolaids brand, Warner Wellcome launched a new campaign from S.U.N. Health-Core last fall.

But spending fell 28% to $6.3 million in 1995.

Sales of Ciba-Geigy's Maalox fell 14% to $88.7 million, but Marketing Director Bruce Hall isn't discouraged.

"This is a temporary loss as people are trying the H2s, but we expect them to come back," he said.

The marketer began rolling out Maalox in tablet form in January, with a campaign from Grey Advertising due by summer, Mr. Hall said.

Media spending on the brand rose 17% last year to $23.9 million.

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