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last week. NEW NASAL SPRAYS WILL SPUR SPENDING IN ALLERGY CATEGORY MCNEIL SEEKING OTC APPROVAL FOR NASALCROM TO GET HEADSTART

By Published on .

A new wave of allergy nasal sprays is poised for approval as over-the-counter products, hopefully propping up the sagging $231 million market for easing consumer sniffles.

McNeil Consumer Products Co. is set for Food & Drug Administration advisory committees' review this week for its Nasalcrom, and Schering-Plough Corp.'s Vancenase AQ isn't far behind. Nasalcrom could likely be ready for OTC sales by next spring.

DEFENSIVE STRATEGY

"It is a defensive strategy by McNeil to pre-empt the others," said Susan Coleman, president of NCI Consulting. "There hasn't been news in the OTC nasal category for years."

McNeil could spend an estimated $20 million behind Nasalcrom; Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising's Healthcare Connection, New York, is McNeil's lead agency. Vancenase is likely to be competitive with Flonase's spending, in the $40 million range.

American Home Products Corp. is rolling out its new OTC Dimetapp allergy remedy in a fast-melt formula for kids with a new campaign breaking this month from Young & Rubicam, New York.

Dimetapp received $24 million in media support in 1995.

RX SALES, SPENDING UP

Figuring in prescription products, the allergy category is growing.

Last week, Hoechst Marion Roussel started TV advertising for its prescription Allegra, an improved version of its once-leading antihistamine, Seldane.

The marketer is putting an estimated $30 million to $40 million budget behind the direct-to-consumer campaign from Medicus Group International.

Hoechst is looking to regain sales lost to Schering's prescription Claritin. That brand moved into TV advertising this year withNasal sprays going OTC spending in that same range, via Thomas Ferguson Associates, Parsippany, N.J.

Sales of prescription nasal sprays are up 52%, to $362.7 million, in 1995, according to researcher IMS America.

MORE FROM SCHERING

Schering just got FDA approval for a double-strength Rx version of Vancenase, and last week submitted a new drug application for yet another prescription spray, Nasonex.

New brands like Glaxo Wellcome's Flonase, with heavy direct-to-consumer promotion and a better safety profile than its predecessors and OTC brands, also have helped swell the category.

Flonase received the highest direct-to-consumer ad spending of any brand in 1995, $40 million, via Grey Advertising, New York.

Introduced in 1995, its sales already totaled $95 million that year.

Nasalcrom sales totaled $35.3 million in 1995, up 6%, just behind Glaxo's Beconase, which rose 14% to $39 million. Beconase also is seeking OTC status but is not yet scheduled for review.

Ahead of both was Vancenase AQ, with sales of $54.4 million in 1995, a 26% increase over the previous year.

SAFETY FACTOR IN OTC

The pending OTC versions would have the advantage of safer profiles and can be used for longer periods without a problem, unlike current OTC sprays.

Ms. Coleman said Nasalcrom, while very safe, is considered less efficacious than the other brands soon to cross over because it is non-steroidal. As a result, the product is used frequently for children.

Almost every brand in the OTC nasal spray category, which fell 7.4%, suffered sales losses; many brands saw double-digit decreases, according to Information Resources Inc.

AFRIN IS TOPS IN OTC

Schering's No. 1-ranked Afrin fell 14.2% to $64.3 million. Bayer Corp.'s Neo-synephrine dropped 12% to $18.8 million, while Procter & Gamble Co.'s Sinex slipped 6.3% to $18.5 million.

Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.'s 4Way was flat at $17.6 million, but fifth-ranked Vicks from P&G experienced a 7.6% fall to $10.4 million and American Home Products' Dristan dropped 17.3% to $10.3 million.

Hoechst Marion Roussel's revamped version of its Seldane antihistimine, Allegra, surfed onto TV last week with an estimated $30 million to $40 million direct-to-consumer campaign from Medicus Group International, New York, a division of D'Arcy, Masius, Benton & Bowles.

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