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SmithKline Beecham's Tagamet HB, already losing its patent in mid-1998, could soon be up against the first TV advertising from a generic competitor.

Pharmaceutical Formulations is aiming to introduce what would be the first TV ads from a generic drug marketer, beginning with the $1.56 billion stomach remedies market.

The marketer this week will unveil, at the Private Label Manufacturers Association conference in Chicago, TV and radio ads that take on Tagamet HB by name. The catch: Pharmaceutical Formulations will only air the campaign if it can convince retailers to share the cost of running the ads.

Sample spots for the drug, cimetidine, emphasize the product has the same active ingredient as Tagamet but "costs up to 40% less." Consultancy Tony Isadore Co., New York, created the ads.


"This is truly breakthrough in the store brand/private label industry," said Charles LaRose, president-CEO of Pharmaceutical Formulations. "If this goes well with cimetidine, we can go into many categories."

Pharmaceutical Formulations also makes generic versions of Tylenol, Advil and other products; it counts Walgreen Co., Rite Aid Corp. and others as retail clients.

Next June -- when the Tagamet patent expires -- Pharmaceutical Formulations intends to begin shipping store-branded cimetidine.

It also has applications filed with the Food & Drug Administration to sell other stomach remedies, including ranitidine, the generic of Warner-Lambert Co.'s Zantac 75, with a patent expiration in December 1998.


In the face of heavy media support behind competitors such as Zantac and Pepcid AC, Tagamet sales fell 27% to $91.9 million for the year ended Sept. 28, according to Information Resources Inc.

Private label enjoyed 5% growth to $147.5 million in the stomach remedies category, but can't yet compete against acid blockers, which are still patent-protected.

Tagamet's $36.9 million in ad support via Ogilvy & Mather, New York, in 1996 was dwarfed by category leader Pepcid AC, from Johnson & Johnson/Merck, and Zantac 75. Pepcid AC got $80.5 million in media support via Saatchi & Saatchi's Healthcare Connection last year and Zantac 75 received $72.6 million, handled by

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