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McNeil Consumer Products Co. is fighting back against the growth of prescription pain relievers and a flat market with the introduction of Tylenol Arthritis.

An estimated $50 million campaign will support the launch starting in late September.

Healthcare Connection, New York, a division of Saatchi & Saatchi, is the agency.


Peter Luther, group product director-adult analgesics at the Johnson & Johnson unit, said as the population ages, category sales "will accelerate a little bit beyond the current 1% to 3% [annual increase]. That's why Tylenol Arthritis is a perfect fit for us."

The product actually is a restaging of Tylenol Extended Relief. The long-relief designation will continue to be used.

The category grew just 1.7% to $2.5 billion for the 52 weeks ended March 29, according to Information Resources Inc. Although retailers' private labels as a group hold the market lead with $607.5 million in sales, Tylenol is the top brand with a 22.5% share and $568 million in sales. Its sales slipped 1.6% during that period.

American Home Products Corp.'s Advil brand enjoyed 4.8% growth, however; sales were $353.6 million for a 14% share. Bayer Corp.'s Aleve dropped 7.3% to $134 million and a 5.3% share.

The weight of the Tylenol campaign could mean more trouble for Aleve, which uses the "Real relief is all-day relief" tagline in ads from BBDO Worldwide, New York.


McNeil has another concern beyond its sales decline -- the coming of a new class of pain relievers, known as Cox-2 inhibitors. They are said to have fewer side effects than over-the-counter pain relievers and are an important osteoarthritis treatment.

Merck & Co. and Searle & Co. are both awaiting Food & Drug Administration approval for their respective prescription brands, Vioxx and Celebra.

"Cox-2s could potentially eat Tylenol for lunch," said Sue Coleman, president, NCI Consulting. "The arthritis extension is really still McNeil's big opportunity for growth and critical for them strategically."

McNeil dropped its co-marketed Arthritis Foundation brand pain reliever in late '96 , citing poor sales.

Mr. Luther said the company's new approach with the renamed Tylenol Arthritis will work better because "we've done very well with particular segments, such as Tylenol Sinus and Tylenol PM."

Tylenol pain reliever was supported by $156 million in media during 1997, according to Competitive Media Reporting, with one ad in its current campaign dedicated to arthritis pain. The current tagline is "Take comfort in our strength."

AHP last week launched an estimated $30 million TV and print campaign from Y&R Advertising, New York, for Advil Liqui-Gels, with ads emphasizing faster action than Extra Strength Tylenol.


Merck is expected to launch an estimated $30 million effort this fall behind new prescription migraine remedy Maxalt, from Ogilvy & Mather, New York. It will challenge drugs Imitrex from Glaxo Wellcome and Zomig from Zeneca Pharmaceuticals, and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.'s OTC entry, Excedrin Migraine.

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