OTC Nasacort will contribute significant incremental dollars to allergy category

Chattem recently announced that the Food and Drug Administration approved Nasacort Allergy 24HR nasal spray (triamcinolone intranasal) as an over-the-counter treatment for seasonal and year-round nasal allergies. And that means by spring 2014, there will be another allergy powerhouse alongside Allegra, Claritin and Zyrtec. 

The switch of a significant name-brand, prescription-only remedy to OTC aisles has traditionally meant a significant uptick in sales across the category as one-time Nasacort prescription patients now look for their remedies on the front-end. It's the next big remedy in this space since Allegra, which was considered a very successful switch when it was launched by the same supplier some two years ago.  

And Nasacort, more than any of the other blockbuster allergy switches, may bring significant incremental sales to the category because it is the first and only nasal corticosteroid to be available without a prescription. That puts it into a class by itself. 

This makes Chattem the new allergy powerhouse. The company already fields Allegra, and for the 52 weeks ended July 14, Allegra products generated more than $335 million in revenue across total U.S. multioutlets, according to IRI. Together with Allegra, Chattem's OTC allergy portfolio would approach $450 million in annual sales if sales of Nasacort reached even $100 million in sales — a conservative sales estimate for a new OTC category. 

Nasacort Allergy will be approved for the same uses as the prescription version, and for the same ages (adults and children over the age of 2 years), but the labeling for the OTC version will include more information about use in children. There will be a warning that the growth rate of some children might be slightly slower while using the spray, and that if a child needs to use the spray for more than two months per year, it should be discussed with their doctor. 

That may cause moms pause when considering whether or not to treat their children with Nasacort, so pediatric formulations may not move off the shelf as well as Nasacort products marketed toward adults. 

But up to 60 million Americans suffer from seasonal and year-round nasal allergies annually. Nasacort and nasal sprays in the same medication class — which are now eligible to join Nasacort in its transition from Rx-to-OTC — are considered the most effective treatment for hay fever and other upper respiratory allergies. 

And while Nasacort is expected to debut in the spring, the fall allergy season of 2014 is really when sales of the nasal corticosteroid ought to blossom. The launch will have been promoted and effectively merchandised throughout the spring and summer, so fall-time allergy sufferers should be well aware of the new OTC allergy alternative. 

Take that and the several factors that have been contributing to a rise in fall allergy sufferers, and Nasacort sales may begin to exceed first-year expectations. 

Fall allergies are certainly on the rise. Recent studies suggest that rising temperatures and carbon dioxide levels could be extending ragweed season by as much as a month or more. This is especially true in the northern states in the United States where there are now longer periods of warm weather than before.

And pollen from weeds is a greater problem in the fall than in the spring, and fall weeds are more prevalent than spring gardens in major urban areas and locations with significant construction.

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