Introduced in 1942, American Home Products Corp.'s Premarin is one of the most-prescribed drugs in the country. But it has weathered attacks from animal rights groups because it is derived from horse urine, with activists claiming the animals are mistreated. Duramed is positioning Cenestin as a biologically correct alternative.
RELIEF FROM HOT FLASHES
Duramed's tagline in both professional and DTC print ads from Gillespie/RAR Healthcare, Law-renceville, N.J., will be "Made from plants! Isn't that cool?" The ads will use the icon of a soy leaf in an ice cube. By using the word "cool" and the image of a woman in an arctic setting, the ads make reference to Cenestin's effect in treating the hot flashes and night sweats women often experience when they first enter menopause.
Duramed will launch an estimated $8 million campaign in physicians' journals next month and then back that with a similarly funded direct-to-consumer print campaign this fall. The company has said it expects to generate $100 million in Cenestin sales in its first 15 months.
TARGET: PRO-ACTIVE WOMEN
Duramed is hoping to appeal to "pro-active," information-hungry women who may be persuaded to try a new option in menopause treatment if they are informed about Premarin and its source in the urine of pregnant mares.
"We believe a lot of patients prefer the idea of taking a plant-sourced product than a product derived from animal urine," said Jeff Kern, Duramed's director of marketing.
Martin O'Brien, VP-director of marketing for Gillespie/RAR, said Duramed is being careful not to denigrate Premarin since so many physicians have prescribed it successfully for years, but rather to emphasize Cenestin as another option.
Cenestin, which won U.S. Food & Drug Administration approval in March, is expected to be widely available June 1, though its official launch is set for July 1.
Like many pharmaceutical companies today, Duramed is counting on the mass of aging baby boomers to boost sales. Figures show more than 3,500 women a day turn 50, making them potential Cenestin users.
Both Cenestin and Premarin are estrogen replacement drugs. Premarin also claims to help ward off osteoporosis, potentially allowing for wider use. Duramed has applied for a similar indication with the FDA.
A spokeswoman for American Home Products, whose Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories makes Premarin, said, "There's no way to compare the two products" because of Premarin's additional indication for osteoporosis.
PREMARIN LEADS MARKET
Premarin leads the $2.9 billion hormone replacement market in the U.S., with a 34% share, according to consultancy Scott-Levin. Other drugs, some plant-derived, have fewer estrogen components and are far behind.
Duramed officials claim Cenestin is the first plant-derived drug that comes close to Premarin's composition.
Alex Zisson, an analyst with Hambrecht & Quist, said he doesn't believe Cenestin's appeal as a plant-based alternative will affect Premarin's market share.
"It's certainly an interesting marketing angle, but we think it'll take share from plant-derived products, not Premarin," Mr. Zisson said.
Both Premarin and Cenestin are barred by the FDA from advertising on TV or radio because their advertising must include a so-called "black box" warning against severe potential side effects.
The DTC print ads for Cenestin will likely run in women's services, health-