New P&G initiative may create clash of the OTC titans

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT'S IMPORTANT This is shaping up to be a Fight Night dream card, with the battle arena located in the digestives aisle of a pharmacy near you. Are you ready to rumble?

(THE NEWS: P&G develops new program in line with Prilosec OTC. For the full story, click here)

This announcement means one thing — that the marketing mavens over at Procter & Gamble are gearing up to protect their $200-million-plus brand Prilosec OTC against two proton-pump inhibitor newcomers. Those newcomers are Novartis with Prevacid 24 HR, and soon Merck (Schering-Plough), with the launch of Zegerid OTC. And both companies would certainly be more than happy to realize the more-than $200 million in annual sales that has been projected for each (with Prevacid 24 HR, this year; with Zegerid OTC, within three years).

That begs the question, can the antacid category harbor three blockbusteresque OTCs, all with greater-than $200 million in annual sales? Who knows? But retailers are going to be pulling in plenty of profit trying to find out.

Because it’s not only P&G, Novartis and Merck that are on this dream card. There’s also GlaxoSmithKline, McNeil Consumer and Boehringer Ingelheim all looking to prevent erosion of their own antacid franchises — Tums, Pepcid and Zantac, respectively.

All things considered, it’s probably a safe bet that the $1.5 billion in total mass market antacid sales for the 52 weeks ended Nov. 28, 2009, down 1.4% from the previous year, will be significantly ramping higher going forward (sales figures are across food, drug and mass, including Walmart, courtesy of the Nielsen Group). Marketshare swapping aside, there’s still an incremental number of PPI prescription users who will be making their way to the digestives aisle. Now it’s just the challenge of grabbing and keeping both old and new-to-OTC heartburn sufferers.

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