Zegerid OTC approved as heartburn remedy

NEW YORK The digestives aisle will be altogether crowded come early 2010, especially with two new proton-pump inhibitors on the shelf. And while there may be some question as to just how large sales of antacids can get, one thing is for sure: There will be a slew of advertisers vying for their own increased share of stomach.

Procter & Gamble will be fending off new-to-the-market PPIs in Novartis’ Prevacid 24HR and Merck’s Zegerid OTC; McNeil Consumer has already stepped up comparison ads for its Prevacid Complete against Prilosec OTC and Tums with the “Works now. Works later.” tagline; Boehringer Ingelheim is also likely to step up advertising against its Zantac franchise; and GlaxoSmithKline has reinvented the tried-and-true heartburn reliever Tums every time a new competitor comes to market. This time, GSK plans to market Tums as a conjunctive therapy to PPIs.

That’s a whole lot of advertising.


Regarding solely PPIs, Merck and its Schering-Plough Consumer division will have its work cut out in raising brand awareness around Zegerid. Unlike Prilosec and Prevacid, Zegerid doesn’t have nearly the number of patients to make the crossover from prescription-only to OTC at the time of its switch. And even though Zegerid contains two heartburn-relieving ingredients (omeprazole and sodium bicarbonate), it doesn’t appear as though Schering-Plough will be able to promote Zegerid OTC as “immediate release” — a claim that Santarus makes in promoting prescription Zegerid — for fear that consumers will confuse that message with “immediate acting.”


But it’s lack of brand awareness pre-launch that has industry analysts like Laura Mahecha at Kline & Co. projecting only $100 million in first-year sales of Zegerid OTC. Prevacid 24HR is expected to reach more than $200 million in sales in its first year, especially if Novartis executives realize their goal of making Prevacid 24HR a top-five OTC brand. Zegerid OTC is expected to break that $200 million marker within three years, however, Mahecha told Drug Store News.

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