OTC STATUS MIGHT NOT BE BOON TO ROGAINE

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Prescription sales of Pharmacia & Upjohn's Rogaine have been compared with the once-hailed wonder drug's ability to grow new hair-thin.

The over-the-counter outlook for Rogaine may not be much better, even with a proposed consumer marketing campaign that includes TV and direct mail.

Following initial Food & Drug Administration advisory committee approval late last year, Rogaine topical solution is expected to gain OTC status soon. It will then be freed from cumbersome FDA guidelines on direct-to-consumer advertising for prescription drugs, allowing Rogaine to finally tie its brand name directly to hair-loss treatment.

MAXED OUT ON AWARENESS?

Theoretically, that should boost consumer awareness and flat U.S. sales. But given the high degree of publicity the drug received when introduced in 1988 and the weight of media spending behind it to date, Rogaine may have already maxed out in terms of awareness.

Pharmacia & Upjohn hopes at least to double Rogaine's 1994 U.S. prescription sales of $111 million this year, after the OTC switch. Scott-Levin Associates said Rogaine sales shrank 1% to $101 million through last November.

"We are not at all disappointed [with sales]; we've had to break a lot of ground," said a company spokesman. "It's very much a product that responds to advertising."

READY FOR OTC PUSH

And the marketer is ready with a new commercial from Grey Advertising, New York, set to handle the OTC push. Consumers will be able to enroll in Rogaine's direct mail program, in which men and women get separate newsletters.

The company declined to disclose Rogaine's upcoming consumer ad budget.

Upjohn, which merged with Swedish company Pharmacia last fall, has been a leader in multimedia direct-to-consumer advertising with Rogaine-it created the first pharmaceutical infomercial and set up a Web site dedicated to the product-investing a third of sales in media spending through DraftDirect, New York.

Media support totaled $32.4 million in 1994, according to Competitive Media Reporting, and $26.6 million through the first half of 1995.

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