NICOTINE PATCHES TAKE A STEP CLOSER TO OTC;FDA PANELS BACK CROSSOVER BY NICODERM AND NICOTROL

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Hot on the heels of the over-the-counter launch of Nicorette gum last week, nicotine patches are gearing up to enter the market, forming a new segment of OTC smoking cessation products.

Advisory committees of the Food & Drug Administration on April 19 recommended crossovers for Nicoderm, the leading prescription patch brand marketed by SmithKline Beecham, and Nicotrol, marketed by Johnson & Johnson. Final FDA approval is expected within a few months.

$100 MIL AD POTENTIAL

If ad spending on SmithKline Beecham's recently approved Nicorette is any measure, media support in the new segment could approach $100 million.

Nicorette received just $4 million in consumer ad support as a prescription product in 1994, but its OTC launch is being fueled by a $40 million campaign (see "The Big Push," Page 58).

Prescription sales in the segment have been flat at $268 million for the year through March, according to Scott-Levin Associates. Industry watchers expect penetration to increase significantly with OTC availability.

Nicoderm holds the lion's share, 39.8%, on sales of $106.9 million. It got $1.6 million in consumer ads last year via NCI Advertising, New York. Ciba-Geigy Corp.'s Habitrol is No. 2 with a 23% share; Nicotrol follows with 6.8%.

SUPPORT PROGRAMS NEEDED

When nicotine patches arrived in the prescription market, they created a big splash but later fell significantly. Marketers now say that a program, such as one called Committed Quitters by Nicorette and Nicoderm, is necessary to support consumers.

Jack Ziegler, president of SmithKline Beecham Consumer Healthcare, isn't concerned about patches' effect on newly launched Nicorette: "Those alternatives are important in the market."

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