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Product intros, promotions amp up competition

BY Michael Johnsen

DSN estimates that annualized sales of cold and allergy products through mid-June were up 7.9%, representing almost $570 million in incremental dollars.

What are the chances of that happening again?

The coming cough-cold season is difficult to project. On one hand, this year’s cough-cold incidence will be going against very strong illness rate numbers from last year. In addition, with both McNeil Consumer and Novartis Consumer supporting the relaunch of a number of cough-cold products, the category is expected to be very promotional this season, a factor that could squeeze margins.

But fighting marketing dollar against marketing dollar isn’t the only cold-cough-allergy card suppliers will be playing this year — expect the introduction of a number of new products. "We often talk internally about the fact that our No. 1 marketing tool is product and the fact that product really is king," Matthew Mannelly, president and CEO at Prestige Brands Holdings, told analysts recently. "As you look into the first few quarters of fiscal year 2014, you’re going to see some other major new product launches from Prestige," he said. He added that the challenge is clear: "to manage pediatrics and cough-cold in the marketplace in light of the returning brands and the heavy investments that we believe those returning brands will make."

Among allergy remedies, there is a potential new switch on the horizon that, if approved, would place the first OTC nasal steroid Nasacort AQ into the hands of Chattem marketing executives. The Food and Drug Administration held a public meeting considering that Rx-to-OTC switch July 31.

That switch could open the door to a new class of allergy medicines. "Whatever happens to one of the nasal steroids will happen to all eventually," suggested David Seltzer, chairman, CEO and president of Hi-Tech Pharmacal, which manages a generic version of a competing nasal steroid.

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Return of Tylenol

BY Michael Johnsen

FORT WASHINGTON, Pa. — There’s a lot of talk this year about the return of some venerable brand names in the OTC aisles, particularly Tylenol. But if the soft launch of McNeil Consumer’s Children’s Tylenol serves as any kind of barometer, the return of the brands will be a big deal. Without the expected marketing hype this fourth quarter, annualized sales of Children’s Tylenol were up 31.8% to $51.4 million, securely resuming its claim as the best-selling children’s fever reducer for the 52 weeks ended June 16 across total U.S. multi-outlets, according to IRI.

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Chains work to educate prospective ACA patients

BY Alaric DeArment

One of the biggest problems with the healthcare reform law is that a lot of people out there don’t fully understand it.

To educate the general public about the law, a few organizations have come up with simple, online tools aimed at dispelling the confusion.

The Kaiser Family Foundation released last month an animated video designed to help people understand the changes to the healthcare system that the law will bring. The video, titled "The YouToons Get Ready for Obamacare" and written and produced by former ABC News anchor Charlie Gibson, explains the changes in how Americans will get coverage and the costs starting next year.

A Kaiser poll back in April found that 42% of Americans were unaware that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is still on track to be implemented, though the Obama administration last month said it would allow a key provision of the law, the requirement for employers to help employees obtain coverage, wait until 2015.

A survey last month by CVS Caremark also found knowledge gaps about the law. The survey found that general awareness of the Affordable Care Act had increased to 74%, up from 57% in a 2011 survey. But 36% of respondents who were likely to enroll in health exchanges needed more information and help in evaluating the insurance exchange process.

More than two-thirds of respondents (68%) said they expected retail pharmacies to offer health insurance in stores or online. In an effort to fill the information gap, CVS Caremark will roll out a company-wide information and outreach program to help customers gain access to critical health insurance marketplace information, including retail events, brochure displays and online at CVS.com/insurance.

"We have a tremendous opportunity to help Americans understand the new healthcare law and how it affects them so consumers receive the coverage that best fits their families," CVS Caremark EVP and chief healthcare strategy and marketing officer Helena Foulkes said.

Another educational effort comes from Walgreens and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. The national campaign centers on a website, LearnAboutReform.com, which offers consumers information about the ways they can purchase health insurance and the benefits available to them.

"Many Americans have had little experience purchasing health coverage and are confused about what the law means to them," Blue Cross Blue Shield SVP strategic services and chief strategy officer Maureen Sullivan said. "Blue companies have been working hard to help consumers navigate this new environment and the coverage options that are available to them. Our partnership with Walgreens is another example of our commitment to ensuring that all Americans have the tools they need to understand these changes and access affordable health insurance coverage that meets their needs."

The website includes easy-to-understand explanations of what the law means for consumers; answers to questions about eligibility for federal financial assistance, the individual mandate and penalties for not purchasing insurance; an explanation of the enrollment process and how health insurance exchanges will work; and an interactive glossary of terms related to the law.

"Walgreens is a trusted community resource for health-and-wellness information, and through this collaboration, we hope the millions of Americans who will be entering the marketplace in October are more informed and better prepared," Walgreens SVP and chief strategy officer Brad Fluegel said.

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