Aleve captured a 4.8% share of the $1.3 billion analgesics market sold through food stores for July, according to Towne-Oller & Associates, New York, a subsidiary of Information Resources Inc., Chicago.
The product, containing 200 milligrams naproxen and 20 milligrams sodium, was launched in mid-June by Procter-Syntex Health Products Company, a joint venture of Syntex Corp., Palo Alto, Calif., and Procter & Gamble, Cincinnati, after the companies gained approval to switch the drug from prescription to over-the-counter status.
The competition, meanwhile, is not sitting idly by.
· American Home Products, Madison, N.J., filed a lawsuit Aug. 9 in U.S. District Court, Newark, N.J., charging P&G and Syntex with "false advertising and promotion of Aleve." American Home Products is the parent of Whitehall-Robins Healthcare, manufacturer of Advil, which contains 200 milligrams ibuprofen and itself switched from prescription to OTC back in 1984. · Johnson & Johnson's McNeil Consumer Products, Fort Washington, Pa., released Tylenol Extended Relief in mid-July. The new product boasts an "eight-hour duration of effect," and is being positioned to appeal to "all pain sufferers, and especially those complaining of minor arthritis pain, persistent backache and nagging headaches," according to Dr. Anthony Temple, executive director of medical affairs at McNeil.
· Advertising, promotions and deals for practically all analgesics have reached a feverish pitch. An HBC buyer from a Northeastern chain says she's "never seen quite so many analgesics ads on TV as in the last 60 days," including ads for Tylenol, Advil, Motrin IB, Excedrin and Aleve.
Tylenol has by far the largest share in analgesics sales. According to Towne-Oller & Associates, New York, for the 12 months ended July 31, Tylenol Extra Strength led the category with a 20.3% share, followed by private label, 14.7%; Advil, 13.5%; Tylenol Children, 7.1%; Tylenol P.M., 4.0%; Motrin I.B., 4.0%; Alka Seltzer, 2.8%; Excedrin Extra Strength, 2.5%, and Genuine Bayer Tablets, 2.4%.
Ibuprofen products, though, are seen as having the most to lose in a successful Aleve launch because they are viewed as being the most similar to Aleve. In fact, Whitehall-Robins has been the most aggressive in working against Aleve.
Whitehall-Robins claims that Aleve's advertising and promotion are full of distortions. "This suit is being filed because Whitehall-Robins Healthcare wants to set the record straight for consumers who are being deceived by unwarranted and unsubstantiated claims in Aleve advertising and promotional materials," says Terrence Stecz, president of Whitehall-Robins Healthcare, in a written statement.
Whitehall-Robins' objections include:
· Aleve's claim that it provides longer-lasting pain relief than Advil. Whitehall-Robins states, "The recommended dosing schedule of naproxen sodium and ibuprofen is not indicative of each drug's duration of action," but safety concerns "require Aleve to be dosed less frequently than most other OTC analgesics."
· P&G's implications that Aleve may work in situations where Advil does not, and P&G's claims that Aleve has a strong history of physician recommendations and prescription heritage. Whitehall-Robins says there is "no evidence that any substantial number of physicians recommended Aleve." The manufacturer adds, "Aleve is actually the OTC version of Anaprox [naproxen sodium]," but "Aleve advertising and promotion implies or states that Aleve is the OTC version of the prescription drug Naprosyn [naproxen]," which has been more widely prescribed.
P&G, in a statement, responds: "All our claims for Aleve are true and well supported. Everything we're saying in our advertising and marketing activities was reviewed and cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration before we launched this product, as the FDA does with any newly approved drug."