Novartis to launch Strips cold remedy

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novartis' newest version of its Triaminic cough and cold brand will be a combination of medical technology and pop culture.

Triaminic Cough Strips will launch later this year or in early 2005 as a medicated version of Pfizer's wildly popular Listerine PocketPaks breath strips, the paper-thin breath fresheners that came on the market in 2002 and rocketed to instant sensation, with more than 100 million packets sold.

Novartis declined to offer much in the way of detail for the new product, but a spokeswoman said, "We're always looking at new technologies." Marketing details for the product, now being discussed with retail buyers, couldn't be learned. Omnicom Group's DDB Corbett, New York, handles Triaminic.

Novartis has been fiddling with the Triaminic brand for more than a year as it continues to run a distant fifth in cold and allergy medication sales. Despite 2003 being a strong year for the category-drug store sales of the remedies were up 8.2% compared to 2002 and mass retailer sales up 4.5% according to NDC Health-Triaminic failed to gain on its rivals.

Procter & Gamble Co.'s Vicks Nyquil has a 14.4% share of the market, easily leading Wyeth's Dimetapp (5.8%); Pfizer's Benadryl (5.7%); Wyeth's Robitussin CF (5.0%); and Triaminic (4.7%).

`it doesn't spill'

Last year, Novartis introduced Triaminic Sore Throat Spray and Triaminic Soft Chews, the latter in conjunction with Eden Prairie, Minn.-based Cima Labs, one of the pioneers of fast-dissolve, or orally disintegrating technology. Cima is not working with Novartis on the Triaminic Cough Strips.

"One of the successes with Triaminic Soft Chews is that kids like the taste," said Lisa McCue, VP-business development for Cima. "Soft Chews are tablets that you put between the cheek and gum and it dissolves. It doesn't spill and it tastes good. Cough strips are really oral film, and the molecules are dealt with differently. I'll be curious to see what happens with those. We were able to mask the taste [of the product] with our technology so I'll be curious to see if [Novartis is] able to do that with the cough strips."

Novartis may be trying to emulate what Prestige Brands is doing with the sore throat medication Chloraseptic. Prestige, a Florida-based package-goods company, acquired the Chloraseptic brand from Procter & Gamble in 2000. Last year, it introduced Chloraseptic Relief Strips, medicated sore throat strips that dissolve in the mouth and are helpful for patients who can not swallow or have trouble breaking down medication in their system.

The Novartis spokeswoman said the company is "continually looking to develop new products that can meet consumers' unmet needs, and we think there's an unmet need here."

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