Sanofi applies to enter packed market with Allegra switch

OTC antihistamines are in a crowded market, with Claritin and Zyrtec already on OTC shelves and Allegra looking to make the switch.

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. —As of Feb. 9, Sanofi-Aventis officially entered the self-care solution arena with its acquisition of Chattem, making the French pharmaceutical company the fifth-largest consumer healthcare player in the world by Sanofi’s calculations. Consumer-division sales for the first quarter, ended March 31, totaled $649.5 million on growth of 42.5%.

And the jewel in the Chattem crown isn’t even on the market yet. Through Chattem, Sanofi will gain entry into arguably the world’s largest OTC market with its flagship blockbuster second-generation antihistamine Allegra.

Sanofi submitted its switch app lication for the antihistamine in March, though that application may prove to be little more than a formality. Well-point Healthcare in 2001 filed a Citizen’s Petition to switch at that time Claritin, Zyrtec and Allegra. A Food and Drug Administration advisory committee recommended the switch of all three, and while the FDA did not force the hands of any of the suppliers, Claritin and Zyrtec are already on the market.

“It’s a very crowded market, but Allegra has such a good Rx following,” said Laura Mahecha, industry manager of the healthcare practice for Kline’s research division. “It can still be a $150 million/$200 million [brand]…just because there’s such a large group of people who suffer from allergies.”

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