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Procter & Gamble Co.'s new Aleve is expected to give rival analgesics marketers a pain.

P&G's first major analgesic product is also the first non-prescription pain reliever to contain a new analgesic ingredient in nearly a decade. Aleve is expected to get substantial support, including at least $50 million in advertising, according to industry estimates.

Extensive couponing and sampling are also anticipated.

Aleve contains naproxen, previously available only in prescription form. It is scheduled to hit store shelves this spring through a joint venture between P&G and manufacturer Syntex Corp., after receiving Food & Drug Administration approval last week.

Aleve is expected to win about 10% of the analgesics market in its first year, according to Kline & Co., Fairfield, N.J. Said Kate Griffie, manager of the research consultancy's pharmaceutical group: "That won't make it another Tylenol or Advil right away, but that's not a bad share."

Because the analgesics market is so mature-sales in food and drugstores grew only 2% for the 12 months ended Nov. 30, according to Towne-Oller & Associates-Aleve is not expected to bring in many new shoppers. But it will steal business from current analgesic products.

"This is a really overcrowded market. The world needs a new analgesic like it needs a new plague," said Chris Hoyt, president of the customer marketing division of consultancy Ryan Management Group, Westport, Conn. "You can bet P&G is going to go all out. This is a share acquisition game, and Procter is going to take it."

Aleve has already had an impact. Prescription forms of naproxen are very popular with arthritis sufferers and Aleve is expected to be a particu-46

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larly big threat to ibuprofen-based brands, often used to relieve arthritis pain. As a result, American Home Products Corp.'s Advil, Upjohn Co.'s Motrin IB and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.'s Nuprin and Excedrin IB have already increased advertising.

Nuprin spending, for example, was up 22.2% to $51.9 million for the first three quarters of 1993, according to Competitive Media Reporting. Motrin IB received $23.4 million in advertising for the same period, up 14.2%.

Johnson & Johnson, marketer of the No. 1 analgesic, Tylenol, recently introduced an easy-to-open package called FastCap aimed at arthritis sufferers. Analysts say the packaging is helping rebuild the brand, but sales were flat for the 12 months ended Nov. 30, at $786.8 million, Towne-Oller reported.

Aspirin marketers, already hurt by ibuprofen and private-label products, are also threatened by Aleve's introduction. Sales for the No. 1 aspirin brand, Sterling Winthrop's Bayer, were down 17% to $110.3 million for the 12 months ended Oct. 31, and the company is quietly reviewing the account. N W Ayer, New York, now handles.

"The analgesics market is going to heat up something fierce as companies try to defend their turf," said Bill Wyman, a partner with Silvermine Consulting Group, Westport, Conn. "At the end of all this, the big three brands will be positioned fairly well in consumers' minds and the rest had better watch out."

One factor will be pricing. Analgesic marketers are already suffering increased competition from private labels, which combined now rank as No. 2 in dollar sales and grew 13% in the last year.

While Aleve will be priced comparably with other brand-name analgesics, it will still be pricier than generic prescription naproxen that went off patent last month, said Hemant Shah, an analyst with HKS & Co., Warren, N.J.

"There will be free sampling all over the place from analgesic marketers," he said. "Already there's been an increase in couponing and I expect pricing issues will heat up."

P&G declined to detail its marketing plans. A spokeswoman noted naproxen's popularity with arthritis sufferers, lasts longer than other analgesics (8-12 hours) and has easy-to-open but child-resistant packaging.

The consumer campaign, handled by D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, New York, should have a strong national introduction combined with P&G's focus on localized, account-specific efforts. Vicom/FCB, San Francisco, has the professional account.M

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