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The stomach remedy market has somersaulted ever since prescription acid blockers crossed into the over-the-counter market, boosting the category over 20% in less than a year, to $1.35 billion.

First out of the Food & Drug Administration gate in June was Johnson & Johnson/Merck Consumer Pharmaceutical's Pepcid AC, which captured the No.*1 spot by the end of February and became the largest crossover to date.

Making every day count, J&J/Merck raced to retail shelves within weeks of FDA approval through the help of Mike Prebenda, Pepcid AC brand manager. Similar approvals were on the way for competing products such as SmithKline Beecham's Tagamet HB, Whitehall Robins' Axid AR and the world's best-selling drug, Warner Wellcome Consumer Healthcare's Zantac 75.

J&J/Merck was also ahead of the pack in requesting and winning specific claims for the product, including prevention and treatment of heartburn.

Pepcid AC, which had sales of $180.5 million for the year through Feb. 25 according to Information Resources Inc., received a robust $100 million in marketing.

The field promises to remain highly competitive. In fact, tiffs over each product's claims of speedy relief have led to some consumer confusion and court battles over language issues in Pepcid AC and Tagamet HB TV spots last fall, with both making changes to spots.

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