OTC hearing aids show promise, but are just the tip of the ear care iceberg
Did you hear? The ear care category is about to get a whole lot louder in terms of new product innovations following President Trump signing of the OTC Hearing Aid Act of 2017.
About 86% of Americans with hearing loss, more than 30 million people, currently go untreated, making hearing impairment one of the most common forms of disability in the country. While the Food and Drug Administration works on codifying the regulations to support OTC hearing aids — a process that suppliers said should take at least three years — ear care companies already are clamoring for shelf space with new and innovative products.
For example, iHear Medical is offering TReO, the first prescription-quality hearing amplifier for OTC markets, and the company’s iHearTest kit, the first FDA-cleared home hearing screener, both of which will be in 500 drug stores by June. The launches will expand to more than 1,300 stores by the end of the year, company officials said.
“We will see significant interest from consumers [in this category],” said John Luna, the company’s CEO. “[As many as] 85% of people who have mild-to-moderate hearing loss don’t own hearing devices. The key factors are access, price and cosmetics. If we can address all of those, [the subsequent] rising tide will raise all boats.”
This uproar around hearing aids could not have come at a better time, said Dan Fox, marketing director at Wally’s Natural, based in Auburn, Calif. “The OTC ear section has become stagnant. [The category] is not looked at as a destination, but that is going to change in the near future,” he said. “The new mandate is going to drive a whole new customer to the OTC section.”
Wally’s Natural is launching Organic Ear Oil, an innovative moisturizing product that soothes the ear. It’s not only really good for people who wear hearing aids, officials said, but it’s also applicable for anyone who wears ear plugs or hearable tech for long periods of time.
Another possible hearing aid adjacency that is expected to make some noise is ear wax removal. “There is an opportunity to educate seniors that hearing loss can be caused by excess earwax,” said Joseph Juliano, vice president of innovative and marketing services at Tarrytown, N.Y-based Prestige Brands. “About 21% of sufferers of excess earwax, almost 13 million people, are not currently treating, driven by lack of awareness of OTC options.” The company recently reformulated its Debrox solutions with more microfoam action that the company said lifts and loosens ear wax from the surface of the ear canal.
The aging baby boomer population is bringing new users into this segment. “The ‘ear discomfort’ segment is seeing some nice growth due to the introduction of the Eustachi device for unclogging ears,” said Yann Pigeaire, director of marketing at Similasan. “And ear ringing is also a trending issue regrettably — Google trends clearly shows a consistent increase in searches for this condition.” To meet the need of consumers with tinnitus, Similasan is introducing an Ear Ringing Remedy drop for the spring planograms.
Weight management program forms ‘ideal’ partnership
Officials at Ideal Protein believe that they have an effective program that offers the opportunity to combine the expertise of dietitians and pharmacists to improve client outcomes and, ultimately, bring in more foot traffic and profits for the retailer.
The Sarasota, Fla.-based company promotes a proprietary medically developed and scientifically based weight management protocol that calls on the use of healthcare professionals, including dietitians and pharmacists, to work with clients to achieve maximum results from the program. In the pharmacy, the Ideal Protein protocol is a consultative service that requires a consultation room, and that can offer existing pharmacy staff a new role as coaches following training. Patients visit weekly for one-on-one coaching. Ideal Protein is a cash-based model that the company said also can benefit pharmacies through increased foot traffic and front-end sales.
Retailers that employ dieticians and pharmacists can maximize the program’s potential by having the teams work in unison with Ideal Protein’s turn-key program, according to Thomas Barus, Ideal Protein’s senior national consultant. “We believe pharmacists and dietitians can work collaboratively,” he said. “Obesity is a condition that requires a multi-disciplinary care team and local relationships. Pharmacists and their teams are perfectly placed to manage patient therapy throughout the weight loss process, with Ideal Protein, and collaborate with the physician on medication changes where necessary.”
Barus added that pharmacists are there to ensure the patients medications, for such chronic illnesses as high blood pressure and diabetes, are correctly managed in collaboration with the physician during the weight loss protocol. Dieticians are positioned to collaborate with pharmacists in the transition from a structured nutrition intervention protocol to the ongoing maintenance which is a personalized regimen created by the dietician for the patient.
So how does the retailer benefit? Barus said the patient needs to visit the store for weekly consultations in addition to choosing and purchasing the Ideal Protein foods, which cannot be purchased online. Plus, the patients are more likely to purchase other products for themselves and their families. “The repeat foot traffic by itself creates a big win for the retailer,” he said. “Plus additional purchases and touch points with the customer provide exposure to other products and services the retailer has to offer.”
Makers of Zicam, Swisse Wellness headline new CRN members
The Council for Responsible Nutrition on Tuesday announced six new companies have joined the association’s membership ranks including voting members Matrixx Initiatives, NattoPharma, SolMic Research and Swisse Wellness. In addition, associate members Carter Regulatory Group and M. Vicinanzo Consulting have joined the association.
Matrixx Initiatives manufactures and markets Zicam brand homeopathic and allopathic OTC products. The company’s products include Zicam Cold Remedy Nasal Spray and Swab, Zicam Cold Remedy Rapidmelts, Zicam Cold Remedy Oral Mist and Zicam Cold Remedy Medicated Fruit Drops. Matrixx products also include Zicam Cold Remedy Relief for Kids, Zicam Allergy Relief Spray and Swab, Zicam Extreme Congestion Relief and Zicam Intense Sinus Relief.
NattoPharma, based in Norway, is involved in vitamin K2 research and development and is the exclusive international supplier of MenaQ7 Vitamin K2 as MK-7. The company has a multi-year research and development program to substantiate and discover the health benefits of vitamin K2 for applications in the marketplace for functional food and dietary supplements. With a global presence, the company established its North American subsidiary, NattoPharma USA in Edison, N.J.
SolMic Research Germany is a private company that focuses on the development of a broad range of nutraceuticals, cosmeceuticals and pharmaceuticals. The company’s technology is actively enhancing the uptake of fat soluble ingredients by rendering them water-insoluble ingredients. SolMic Research currently sells in Europe and just started selling dietary supplements and technology for dietary supplements in the U.S. and Canada.
Swisse Wellness is an Australian-based manufacturer of vitamin, herbal and mineral supplements, skincare and sports nutrition products. Part of the Hong Kong listed H&H Group, Swisse’s mission is to make people around the world happier and healthier, brought to life not only through its products, but also through a focus on advocating movement, nutrition and mindfulness.
Carter Regulatory Group is an international regulatory consulting firm specializing in regulatory solutions for companies of all sizes, while M. Vicinanzo Consulting provides regulatory direction and strategic solutions to corporate clients on developing and promoting dietary supplements, drugs, cosmetics and food products.