Tuesday, September 16, 2003

P&G offers Prilosec as over-the-counter

By Cliff Peale
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Cincinnati is better known for heartburn now, and it's got nothing to do with Skyline Chili or the Cincinnati Reds' fall into last place.

Monday, Procter & Gamble Co. launched its over-the-counter version of Prilosec into stores across the country, with a promotional effort that dwarfed recent consumer favorites such as Crest Whitestrips and Tampax Pearl.

Over the weekend, the company sent 1,200 trucks carrying the anti-heartburn treatment to store chains such as Cincinnati-based Kroger Co. And it helped set up 450,000 in-store displays, about five times as many as the Whitestrips tooth whitener and the Pearl tampon, P&G said.

Once one of America's most-prescribed drugs, Prilosec hit store shelves early Monday, and P&G is planning for first-year sales up to $400 million. It's among the biggest product launches for P&G, the maker of products including Crest toothpaste and Pampers diapers.

Prilosec is approved for frequent heartburn sufferers, and the "purple pill" has earned loyalty from Americans who have taken it by prescription. While the pill itself no longer is purple, P&G is counting on that loyalty to lure consumers to buy Prilosec off store shelves, instead of getting a prescription for a competing product.

P&G, which got approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in June to sell Prilosec as part of a partnership with drug maker AstraZeneca, is suggesting a price of $10.99 for a 14-day pack (one pill a day). That's less than the average national insurance co-payment, P&G said.

Over-the-counter competitors such as Pepcid are taken before or after eating a spicy meal, for example, to prevent or treat heartburn symptoms. They can be taken more than once a day.

For P&G new products, Whitestrips has set the standard during the past several years, with full first-year sales of about $200 million. If Prilosec meets projections, it should top that.

"It's huge," Greg Allgood, associate director of P&G's Health Sciences Institute, said. "We've been working on it for about two years."


E-mail cpeale@enquirer.com

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