In its first three months, Lamisil has claimed a 39.3% share of the OTC anti-fungal cream segment vs. 21.7% for Lotrimin, according to Information Resources Inc.
At its current pace, Lamisil, with only a cream in OTC channels, is set to supplant Lotrimin as leader in the total market (creams, powders, sprays) once a full-year is under its belt. Through the first eight months Lotrimin held a 23% share to Lamisil's 10% in all footcare products.
Lotrimin AF, a Schering-Plough brand, ironically gained the top spot in the early '90s after it also journeyed Rx-to-OTC.
Lamisil's move to OTC prior to its patent removal may not be that unusual, considering consumer patterns in the footcare market. People go to the drug aisles and not a doctor for treatment of athlete's foot. Data show 85% of consumers self-medicate, says Barry Cohen, Novartis' category director for dermatologicals.
Lamisil's most compelling act may be its role as a growth engine in a category lucky to achieve three to four percent annual dollar growth -- "and that's in good years," Mr. Cohen says.
MORE SEEK TREATMENT
The marketing push behind the brand may have convinced more people to seek treatment with other products in the category. Sales are up 3% for Lotrimin and 8% for Tinactin, also a Schering-Plough brand, says an industry consultant.
Part of the reason is the boost in ad spending from competitors seeking to contain the Lamisil ad splash -- $15 million to $20 million in annualized spending on media. First-half '99 advertising from Competitive Media Reporting places Lotrimin and Tinactin spending at twice their ad pace for full-year 1998.
In the same period, Lamisil forked out $10.3 million just on its anti-fungus cream product. (Novartis also spent $20.3 million on Lamisil's anti-fungus toenail treatment, which remains an Rx line.)
Novartis has positioned Lamisil as the only OTC cream that can treat athlete's foot in one week as opposed to the four-week treatment recommended by other leading brands. Schering-Plough positions Lotrimin as powerful enough to work on contact and touts Tinactin as preventing the onset of athlete's foot.
"The silver lining is their [Schering-Plough's] business also is growing while Lamisil is growing," says Mark Demuro, consultant with Meridian Consulting Group. "It shows that there are other benefits that matter to consumers besides a one-week recommended treatment."
Data show Novartis' own Desenex has dropped 6% in sales for the year. Desenex apparently is relinquishing the "cream" market to Lamisil because in first-half 1999 it cut all advertising on its ointment but increased spending on its foot powder and foot spray products.
By switching Lamisil to OTC prior to its patent expiration in 2007, Novartis eschews conventional wisdom. It is counting on greater sales volume at the OTC end to compensate for higher revenue streams associated with more expensive Rx products.
As an Rx drug, Lamisil's full product line drew $407.4 million in sales in '98. That compares with $279.8 million sales for the entire OTC footcare, anti-fungal market of which Lotrimin accounted for $69.4 million, according to IMS Health.
Lamisil comes in cream, spray and tablet form. While only the cream has gone OTC, the spray is expected to follow. Tablet form is used mainly to treat