Now dubbed "no gain" by industry wags, Rogaine sales peaked at $160 million in 1992 after the drug was approved for women. That's way below early expectations of $500 million a year.
In 1993, sales fell 31% to $110 million, while Rogaine sales for the first six months of 1994 were reported to be only $49 million, down another 2% compared with the year-earlier period.
The brand's potential weakened even more this past summer, when an advisory committee of Food & Drug Administration failed to recommend that Rogaine be made available as an over-the-counter drug.
"Rogaine has never been able to live up to its hype," says Gabriel Lowy, senior VP-consumer products research at Oppenheimer & Co. "No one has stepped forward with a full head of hair that was regrown by Rogaine. Until they do, [Upjohn] may never be able to overcome consumer skepticism about the treatment."
Executives at Upjohn, which markets Rogaine heavily to consumers with TV and print ads from Kobs & Draft, New York, and incentives to get a "free, private hair-loss consultation" with a doctor, dismiss Wall Street's analysis of Rogaine and insist the topically applied liquid hair regrowth drug has been very successful.
"We have been very clear about what the drug delivers, that this is not a quick-fix product, that it needs the commitment to be used twice a day, everyday, and it's a drug that must be used for four to six months-and for some individuals for up to a year before any results are seen," says Ellen Miller, Upjohn executive director of marketing, who has been working on Rogaine since before the brand came to to market.
Only about half the men and 19% of women who use Rogaine see moderate hair growth or better, the company says.
Those results aren't stimulating much interest among consumers, despite $34.5 million in media support, according to Competitive Media Reporting, and that's leaving expectations for the future thin.