HEALTH

Perrigo gears up for cough-cold season

BY Michael Johnsen

ALLEGAN, Mich. Perrigo is steeling for a potential volatile cough-cold season this year, because even as news of the continued H1N1 pandemic dominates the American conscience, the fact is recent cough-cold seasons have been historically weak.

“The H1N1 influenza outbreak is a cause for concern for all of us,” commented Perrigo president, CEO and chairman Joe Papa to analysts. “We take this outbreak very seriously and our retailers are preparing for the flu season right now,” he said, noting that the category represents approximately 12% of Perrigo revenues.

Outside of cough/cold, however, Perrigo’s next fiscal year looks very promising, especially given an economically-driven move to private label and the better value equation of store brand, over-the-counter products. “The overall OTC consumer market was up 4% in the [fourth] quarter versus last year as national brands were essentially flat,” Papa said, discussing Perrigo’s fourth-quarter results for the fiscal year ended June 27. “Store brands gained 13% on the strength of new product launches and increased market share … the analgesic and gastrointestinal categories were up more than 4% during the quarter. National brands were relatively flat in those categories but store brands grew 9% and 20% respectively in those categories.”

Overall consumer healthcare fourth-quarter net sales increased 9% to $407 million, results that are pared against the very successful launches of omeprazole and cetirizine. “That means this is a 9% incremental growth on top of those launches last year,” commented Judy Brown, Perrigo EVP and CFO. “Approximately 7 percentage points came from both new and existing product sales growth and another 9% came inorganically from the acquisition of JB Labs, Unico, Diba and Brunel.”

Perrigo is projecting revenue growth of between 6% and 8% in the coming fiscal year. “Our plan does factor in competition in the gastrointestinal and smoking cessation category during the year,” Brown said. “We are also aware of the FDA reviews related to acetaminophen-containing products and believe the impact to our consumer healthcare business will be limited during the transition to new product lines.”

Perrigo is planning to launch as many as 20 new products in the coming year, including potential private-label competition to Schering-Plough’s laxative MiraLax (brand sales of approximately $200 million and growing 20% per year) beginning in Perrigo’s fiscal second quarter this fall.

Perrigo also plans to launch store-brand versions of Reckitt Benckiser’s cough/cold remedy Mucinex and McNeil Consumer Healthcare’s Monistat-1 this year. Annual brand sales for Mucinex are approximately $150 million, Perrigo reported.

Monistat-1 currently has $80 million in annual branded sales, Pap stated.

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Alka Seltzer

BY Michael Johnsen

As seen on shelf at Walgreens, having a major pharma player like Bayer HealthCare field what essentially is a hangover-relief product adds credibility, not to mention a little more shelf presence, to similar products like Living Essentials’ Chaser Plus.

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Study: Hand rinsing can reduce contraction of gastrointestinal illnesses

BY Michael Johnsen

RESTON, Va. New research out of the U.S. Geological Survey has determined that hand rinsing effectively may reduce exposure to microbes that cause gastrointestinal illnesses commonly found in beach sand.

“Cleaning our hands before eating really works, especially after handling sand at the beach,” stated Richard Whitman, the lead author of the study. “Simply rinsing hands may help reduce risk, but a good scrubbing is the best way to avoid illness.”

For this study, scientists measured how many E. coli bacteria could be transferred to people’s hands when they dug in sand. They analyzed sand from the shores of Lake Michigan in Chicago. Using past findings on illness rates, scientists found that if individuals were to ingest all of the sand and the associated biological community retained on their fingertip, 11 individuals in 1,000 would develop symptoms of gastrointestinal illness.  Ingestion of all material on the entire hand would result in 33 of 1,000 individuals developing gastrointestinal illness.

In a further laboratory experiment, USGS scientists determined that submerging one’s hands four times in clean water removed more than 99% of the E. coli and associated viruses from the hands.

In recent years, USGS scientists have discovered that concentrations of E. coli bacteria in beach sand are often much higher than those in beach water. Follow-up research at beaches around the nation by many scientists has resulted in similar findings, although the amount of bacteria in sand varies depending on the beach.  Although beach water is monitored for E. coli as mandated in the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act (BEACH Act 2000), beach sand is not currently monitored for contamination.

Recent analysis of seven beaches across the nation by the University of North Carolina -Chapel Hill and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency showed that beachgoers digging in sand were more likely to develop gastrointestinal illness after a day at the beach compared to those not digging in sand. The association with these illnesses was even stronger for individuals who reported being partially covered up in sand. Because children played in the sand more frequently and were more likely to get sand in their mouths, they were more likely to develop gastrointestinal illness after a day at the beach.

“The excess illnesses we observed among those exposed to sand generally consisted of mild gastrointestinal symptoms, but it is a good idea to be sure to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer after digging or playing in the sand,” stated Chris Heaney, lead author of the UNC study.

E. coli is an indicator of recent sewage contamination and if it is present, pathogens harmful to human health are also likely present.  The origin of these bacteria is often unknown. They can persist throughout the swimming season, remaining a potential contamination source to beach visitors.

Results of these studies highlight the need to intensify efforts to determine sources of microbial contamination to beaches and associated risk of playing in beach sand.

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