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Summertime symptoms breathe life into sales

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This year's spring allergy season has been characterized by a late start. "The allergy season was very weak in February and March, and even the beginning of April [was] very weak," William Peters, CFO and VP finance for Hi-Tech Pharmacal, told analysts in July. "June was more consistent with the previous year," he added.

(For the full category review, including sales data, click here.)

Approximately l-in-20 Americans experienced allergy symptoms for the week ended Aug. 16, according to IMS Health data. That was slightly higher than the incidence level in the prior week and contributes to an MS projected 4.1% lift for the summer, which follows a 5.2% decline in incidence in spring 2013 versus the previous year. As of Aug. 16, allergies were trending higher in the South Central and South West regions.

That summertime lift in incidence is having a positive influence on sales. For the 12 weeks ended July 14, sales of cold and allergy tablets were up 5.8%, totaling $766.8 million in sales across U.S. total multi-outlets, according to IRE data. Sales of liquid formulations were up 8.9%, reaching $132.4 million.

Chattem may breathe some additional life into the category by this time next year, if the Food and Drug Administration approves its switch of Nasacort AQ, which could open the door to a new class of allergy medicines. The FDA's Nonprescription Drugs Advisory Committee in late July voted in favor of making the nasal corticosteroid Nasacort AQ available without a prescription.

If Nasacort AQ is approved, Chattem will become the new allergy powerhouse. "[Chattem's] Allegra is already neck-and-neck with Claritin," noted Laura Mahecha, industry manager at Kline Healthcare. But the nasal format is not expected to become as big as the competing allergy tablets, including Allegra, she said.

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