Industry anxiously awaiting FDA decision on DXM’s fate
SILVER SPRING, Md. —While the fact that two Food and Drug Administration advisory committees collectively voted 15 opposed versus nine in favor of scheduling any product containing dextromethorphan suggests that DXM will remain available over the counter, there is no guarantee. The next steps include an FDA review of all material presented during the Sept. 14 meeting, as well as any material submitted outside of that meeting, in a process that typically takes months.
And while the agency heeds the majority vote of its advisory committees more times than not, DXM products may be only one sensational DXM-related-teen-death news story away from being scheduled as a controlled substance. That also may mean that DXM will become available only by prescription—as the FDA noted in its pre-meeting documents that OTC medicines might not be eligible for scheduling under current Controlled Substance Act regulations.
If the legislated migration of pseudoephedrine products behind the pharmacy counter in 2005 is any indicator, scheduling DXM would have a devastating impact on retail sales. For the third quarter ended September 2006, sales of products containing the decongestant PSE already were down by almost half, and the behind the-counter sales only went into effect in June 2006.
Considering that the top three cough syrup manufacturers—Reckitt Benckiser with Delsym, Pfizer Consumer with Robitussin and Procter & Gamble with Vicks—represent 78.7% of the overall cough syrup dollar share, if only those companies posted 50% declines in sales across their respective lines of cough syrup products, and all other sales remained static, that would represent a 39% decline in cough syrup sales alone. (For the 52 weeks ended Sept. 5, sales of cough syrups were up 5.2% to $318.1 million, according to SymphonyIRI Group data across food, drug and mass, excluding Walmart.) That, in turn, would imply a negative 310 basis point impact to all sales of OTC cough-cold products, and that’s across only those three brands.
There is a significant difference between the decongestant PSE and the antitussive DXM, however: A mono-graphed OTC decongestant alternative to PSE already existed; there is no cough suppressant alternative to DXM, save one. That one alternative is the first-generation diphenhydramine—one of the active ingredients in Advil PM indicated for cough that also causes drowsiness.
Retail sales notwithstanding, there would be a far greater impact on healthcare payers and cough sufferers, who now likely would be required to see a doctor for their cough—already the most common complaint for which they visit a physician office and also the most common symptom for which Americans self-medicate, according to Consumer Healthcare Products Association research.
CVS’ future rests on front-end, private-label evolution
NEW YORK CVS Caremark has no doubt been a trailblazer in the healthcare arena, positioning itself along the front lines to leverage its various points of care to improve outcomes and lower healthcare costs. But with all that CVS Caremark has done and will continue to do in the healthcare space — and it is no doubt a lot — it still has more than 7,000 retail locations, and the front of the store continues to be a critical part of its business and a major growth driver for the company.
(THE NEWS: At his last analyst day, Ryan sets out course for future CVS Caremark. For the full story, click here)
The front end is an $18 billion business for CVS and to be sure the company continues to look for ways to drive even more productivity out of its stores. It comes as no surprise that one area it will target for additional growth is private label. Private-label penetration currently stands at 17%, and over the next two to three years, company executives expect that number to grow to more than 20%.
"Private-label brands continue to grow and evolve. In this economy, consumers have shown that they are much more willing to try private-label products," Mike Bloom, EVP merchandising and supply chain, told analysts during Friday’s 2010 analyst meeting in New York. He noted that by the end of 2010, CVS/pharmacy will have nearly 5,100 private-label items storewide, which is an increase of 900 items versus last year. Each year, the company adds about 900 new private-label items and leverages ExtraCare to encourage trials among cardholders.
What is news, particularly to suppliers, is that a key component of CVS’ private-label program is an entirely new line that the company plans to introduce in February 2011, called Just The Basics — named to clearly communicate its functional, value-priced, smart, simplicity positioning. What is significant is that the new line is not a national-brand-equivalent type execution, but rather, more of a basic entry-point, low-price alternative.
"Now, while many retailers are stuck in the brand-follower mode of the 1980s, we have evolved to a leadership role," Bloom said.
The company also is increasingly turning to "treasure hunt" items and is using its circulars to drive front-end sales. For example, it recently promoted a WiFi-capable Netbook for $99.99 on the front page of its circular. While a Netbook isn’t your traditional drug store product offering, it has proven to be a hit among shoppers. CVS sold $3 million worth of Netbooks in three weeks, and it will be a $15 million item at CVS, the company said.
Then there’s beauty. As the article states, CVS is piloting a mini format of its Healthy Skincare Centers (in 120 stores) and will launch in January an ExtraCare Beauty Club.
Clearly the front end continues to be a significant growth driver for CVS and that will continue to be the case for a long time to come.
Natural rodent repellant Fresh Cab available at retail
BISMARCK, N.D. An all-natural rodent repellant continues to gain a stronger retail presence with more than 3 million pouches sold, which come in convenient four-pack boxes.
Earth-Kind’s Fresh Cab, created by gardener and environmentalist Warberg Block, uses ground corn cobs soaked in essential botanical oils and packaged in small biodegradable pouches.
Fresh Cab is sold at 15,000 home, garden, hardware and farm and ranch stores throughout the nation.