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Roche to go it alone with brandsThe future of Procter & Gamble Co.'s Aleve and Femstat-3 appears vague with inexperienced U.S. marketer Roche Holding's takeover of the two brands within a year.

P&G has decided to sell to partner Roche its stake in the 50/50 partnership called Procter-Syntex Health Products.

P&G wanted to take Aleve global, but was hampered by Roche, owned by Basel, Switzerland-based Hoffmann-LaRoche. So P&G got out.

"We and Roche have different business interests," P&G said. "Roche was not interested in expanding Aleve under the agreement."

P&G's original 1988 partnership changed when Syntex Laborato-ries was acquired by Roche in mid-1994.

P&G will support Aleve and Femstat-3 until mid-1997, when Roche will take over. In doubt is the future of $69 million in Aleve billings with D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, New York, and the $25 million Femstat-3 account at Leo Burnett USA, Chicago.


A Hoffmann-LaRoche spokes-man contended the company-which has little over-the-counter marketing experience in the U.S.-intends to take the U.S. brands worldwide.

Some European roster agencies for the company are Bates Worldwide, Grey Advertising, J. Walter Thompson Co. and McCann-Erickson Worldwide.

"We're looking at it now; there are different scenarios," the spokesman said, including creating a U.S. OTC sales force, licensing the brands to another marketer or purchasing a company that could market them.


Despite annual sales of $140 million and a successful launch, Aleve did not live up to expectations. The brand is now the No. 4 analgesic with a share that slipped to 5.1% of the $2.7 billion market through May 26, according to Information Resources Inc., down from a high of 6.5% in August 1994.

P&G said it remains committed to its healthcare business and will put greater effort behind its Vicks brands. This fall, it will introduce in North America a new Formula 44 cough syrup with a superior coating ability via DMB&B.

P&G also said it will increase its $400 million research budget for healthcare next year, focusing on anti-infectives, and bone and cardiovascular drugs.

While some industry watchers have long maintained P&G will need an acquisition to become a major force in healthcare, the company didn't indicate that last week.

"We realize that becoming a major global player will take time," said CEO John Pepper, "but we're making good progress and remain committed to that goal....We'll continue to seek strategic partnerships with other health and technology companies, as a key growth strategy."

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