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J&J'S CONFIDE FACES LEGAL BATTLE, NEW RIVAL;HOME ACCESS HEALTH GAINS FDA NOD FOR HIV TEST

By Published on .

Johnson & Johnson's Confide, facing legal hurdles in its effort to turn anonymous HIV testing into a home market, is moving ahead in the wake of competitive pressure.

After rival Home Access Health won Food & Drug Administration approval late last month for a competing product, J&J decided to move Confide into national direct mail sales immediately and broad national retail availability in September.

National advertising of Confide's 800-number will also begin in September, via McCann Erickson Worldwide, New York.

The $40 kit has been testing at retail in Texas and Florida and through direct sales since its May approval. The rollout will not include New York and California until a later, undefined time.

NEW JERSEY LITIGATION

The Confide move comes despite a New Jersey state court case filed last week between J&J and Elliott Millenson, a dismissed head of J&J's Direct Access Diagnostics unit who claims rights to the product he helped develop. An earlier decision last week from an arbitrator said J&J should turn the product over to Mr. Millenson.

"It would be very unfortunate if J&J couldn't move forward," said Don Stuart, partner at consultancy Cannondale Associates. "Their name brings a lot of respect and credibility to the potential acceptance of this market."

Home Access Health today launches an estimated $5 million to $7 million multimedia campaign for its entry, targeting gays, lesbians and others. Advertising includes an 800-number, with TV spots from A. Eickoff & Co. and print ads from Arian, Lowe & Travis, both Chicago.

The Home Access kit will offer the choice of a fast $50 three-day result

response or, like Confide, a $40 one-week turnaround. Both make counselors

available.

"What we're doing is creating the house call of the 21st century," said

Richard Quattrocchi, president of Home Access.

J&J has run TV spots for Confide in English and Spanish in Dallas, San Antonio, Orlando and Miami.

$5 MIL TO $7 MIL FOR LAUNCH

J&J, which last year spent a combined $13.5 million in media on its Advance and Fact Plus home pregnancy tests, Advanced Care cholesterol tests, and One Touch glucose tests, is estimated to be budgeting $5 million to $7 million for the Confide launch.

And more competition is coming, with ChemTrak's HIV test kit awaiting FDA approval. ChemTrak currently markets CholesTrak, which it offered with J&J under the Advanced Care brand until last January.

SmithKline Beecham will seek over-the-counter approval of OraSure, its saliva-based HIV test kit approved for doctor use.

Little research exists on the potential size of the home HIV test market. J&J cited a Centers for Disease Control survey that found 20 million Americans had been tested for the virus, excluding blood donors. Of those, 55% were tested through doctors or hospitals, 13% through community or public health clinics, 26% through a variety of other clinics and 7% at military inductions.

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