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Americans choosing homeopathy for cough/cold

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK Homeopathy doesn’t sell well at mass retail, when it’s homeopathy you’re trying to sell. That’s because homeopathy doesn’t rank very high in the mass consumer’s decision matrix, according to several suppliers of homeopathy medicines. What does rank high on that decision matrix is safety and efficacy. Mass consumers want to know that the medicine they’re taking does what it says it’s going to do, and when used as directed, that the medicine is going to make them feel better overall by not exchanging one set of symptoms for another set.

“In all the research we’ve done with consumers, the two main [factors] that they look for are ‘safe’ and ‘effective,’” Dale Nepsa, president of Hyland’s, told Drug Store News. “Homeopathy [as a concept] is way down the list after that,” Nepsa added.

That helps explain why homeopathy products more and more are finding a profitable space on the mass retailer shelf. The medicines are marketed more for what they are — safe and effective remedies that help relieve many of the same symptoms addressed by allopathic medicines — than for how they work.

However, the concept driving homeopathy also is gaining greater share — and not just because homeopathic remedies marketed against pediatric cough/cold is helping to fill the void vacated by allopathic remedies, around which concerns over safety and efficacy are circling. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, more than 95 of the nation’s 125 medical schools now require some kind of complementary and alternative medicine coursework, which includes homeopathy and, accordingly, brings homeopathy more into the fold of conventional medicine. “What pharmacists and other healthcare professionals are looking for is a product that has clinical efficacy,” commented Bob Silverstein, senior sales and marketing director with Origin Biomed. “Any reticence toward homeopathy that traditional pharmacists might have, we’ve been able to overcome just with the performance of the product itself.” Origin Biomed markets Neuragen PN, a relatively new product for nerve pain.

Homeopathy, as a concept, also is gaining traction with consumers. “They’re starting to know the word; they’re starting to understand it; they’re starting to have more faith in it,” Nepsa said.

But the controversy around allopathic cough/cold remedies for children certainly is driving interest in “alternative” remedies like homeopathic products — though consumers are more likely developing an affinity for relative brands than the concept of homeopathy. “Boiron has always depended very heavily on word-of-mouth,” noted Alissa Gould, public relations manager at Boiron. “And moms talk,” she said, making the situation surrounding kids’ cough/cold today a significant opportunity for homeopathic manufacturers. According to Mintel/Nutrition Business Journal projections, overall sales of homeopathic are expected to reach $1.1 billion by 2012, up from an estimated $831 million sales base in 2008.

The focus on marketing and merchandising homeopathy, much like their allopathic remedy cousins, also helps explain why some of the homeopathy suppliers today are seeking to generate some momentum around their brands in much the same way that allopathic companies do — similar to how McNeil Consumer’s brand Tylenol extends beyond analgesics into cough/cold, for example. Companies like Hyland’s, Boiron and Similasan are attempting to generate some brand equity around their corporate brands. Hyland’s has established itself in baby care with its teething and colic remedies, as well as within the kids’ cough/cold set with its Curious George-licensed cough/cold products, and is making headway with adult-oriented products like Restful Legs for restless legs. Boiron is beginning to expand its “hard-to-pronounce” flu remedy Oscillococcinum brand with new Oscillo offerings, and is extending its brand name across the aisle into analgesics with Arnicare. Similarly, Similasan with its long heritiage in ear care and eye care products, is attempting to extend its Similasan brand identity into insomnia and anxiety/stress relief.

“The opportunity [for homeopathy at mass] is first to identify those health conditions that can be effectively treated by homeopathy,” noted Curt Behrens, president of P2B, a sales and marketing company that represents Similasan. And more importantly for mass outlets, the opportunity is to identify those homeopathic treatments that can deliver more immediate relief, because that’s what consumers want. “The regimen has to match to consumer expectations,” said Behrens. “From a merchandising perspective, it’s important that homeopathic products are not segregated from traditional OTC treatments … because the consumer shops by condition and disease states, [but] they also shop adjacencies.”

To segregate homeopathy at mass retail would only serve that consumer looking for homeopathic treatments first. And that consumer doesn’t shop often enough in mass outlets to support a homeopathy destination center. “Even in health food, that homeopathic-driven consumer is only a small fraction [of that channel’s] total consumer base,” Behrens said.

Homeopathy as a destination center within mass retail has been tried, actually, and has failed miserably, a few suppliers noted, asking that the specific retailers who tried the concept not be called out. Homeopathy traditionally sells very well in specialty retail, where it is, in fact, sold more as a lifestyle for consumers in search of more natural alternatives in all aspects of their lives. That helps explain why homeopathy thrives as a destination center in those channels. It goes back to that decision matrix — specialty channel consumers have already familiarized themselves with and embraced the concept behind how homeopathy works, and consequently have placed homeopathy higher up on their decision matrix.

Another driver of homeopathy unique to specialty is the informed and educated customer service rep combing the aisles. For mass retail, that represents a significant investment in training and labor — an expense that grows proportional to the store base — that delivers only questionable returns.

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Publix to open 1,000th store Feb. 5

BY Michael Johnsen

LAKELAND, Fla. Publix will open the doors to store No. 1,000 on Feb. 5, the grocer announced Thursday. The latest addition to Publix, which will stand at 54,000 sq. ft., will include a pharmacy, bakery, deli and floral and fresh seafood departments.

“We are proud of our 79-year history, rich in providing superior customer service and delivering a high-quality selection of foods, products and services,” stated Publix president Todd Jones.

Opening day festivities will begin with a performance by the St. John’s Academy of the Arts choral group. To commemorate the milestone, Publix will grant eight local area schools $1,000 each to use toward the purchase of school supplies.

According to the company, the Florida Historical Society will be on-hand to recognize and document Publix’ milestone.

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Eli Lilly agrees to settlement over alleged mispromotion of Zyprexa

BY Alaric DeArment

WASHINGTON Drug maker Eli Lilly & Co. has agreed to pay $1.415 billion to resolve allegations that it promoted the antipsychotic drug Zyprexa for unapproved uses.

The Department of Justice announced Thursday that the Indianapolis-based company would pay a $515 million criminal fine (the largest ever in a healthcare case and the largest criminal fine ever imposed on an individual corporation) and up to $800 million in a civil settlement with the federal government and the states. It will also forfeit assets of $100 million.

The settlement will resolve criminal and civil allegations that Lilly promoted Zyprexa (olanzapine) for uses not approved by the Food and Drug Administration, including treatment of dementia in elderly people. 

In a plea agreement, the company has admitted its guilt to a misdemeanor charge. It also signed a civil settlement to resolve claims that by marketing the drug for off-label uses, it caused the submission of false payment claims to federal health insurance plans such as Medicaid, TRICARE and the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program.

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