ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Wegmans Food Markets here welcomed the over-the-counter availability of allergy medicine Zyrtec, and its generic counterpart cetirizine, late last month.
“When the most popular allergy medicine prescribed by allergists and pediatricians becomes available without a prescription, it's news. Zyrtec [the branded product from McNeil Consumer Healthcare, Fort Washington, Pa.] is now available over the counter. It's also on the shelf under its generic name cetirizine, with a savings of about 30% for the hay fever/allergy/asthma/hives sufferer,” the company's senior vice president of consumer affairs, Mary Ellen Burris, explained in her weekly online column.
The generic product Wegmans carries is Top Care Cetirizine from Topco Associates, Skokie, Ill. “The Top Care brand is replacing many Wegmans brand products in health and beauty care. Our company's sales of these products are often not great enough to qualify for our own label at the ‘best price.’ So we have joined with other retailers in a member-owned cooperative to use Top Care label products,” Burris wrote.
Wegmans did not respond to a request for comment.
“It is the biggest allergy launch in history, and store brand will capture a huge share, saving consumers millions of dollars and generating significant profit for retailers,” said Tony Harrington, business manager, HBC, Topco Associates. Consumers can compare the active ingredient in Zyrtec to Top Care Cetirizine, he added.
Best merchandising practices include placing the generic to the right of the brand and in all locations where the brand is displayed, he said. Also, secondary displays and endcap placement for the generic are important, Harrington said. “Topco provided our retailers with thousands of display vehicles to accomplish this.”
Feedback from retail members of Topco has been “wildly successful” so far, Harrington said. “Some retailers have indicated challenges in getting as much Zyrtec as they would have liked, and the store brand has helped fill that consumer demand.”
“The increased incidence of allergies and asthma, especially among young people, baffles me,” stated Burris in her column. “From all I can read, there is no agreement on exactly why there are so many more problems than in the past. Until more is known, we'll just treat symptoms and this drug is one way … now at a better price.”