Lactose Intolerance Products Overflowing onto OTC Shelves

Article excerpt

Drugstores are making shelf room for an increasing number of products to treat lactose intolerance. To get a better fix on this growing category, Drug Topics talked to a group of players in the field, some of whom shared specific ways in which they're positioning their product in the marketplace.

One of the more recent entries is Detroit-based Caraco Pharmaceutical Laboratories Ltd. with its Sure-Lac chewable lactase enzyme tablets. To effectively position its product against the existing competition, Caraco has mapped out a television advertising campaign. The target of the campaign is ethnic and demographic groups who are prone to lactose intolerance--Asians, blacks, the elderly, and people of Jewish descent--according to Dave Winchell, director of marketing and sales for Caraco.

New York City-based Sterling-Winthrop, maker of Dairy Ease, a 1990 entry into the marketplace, began running a television campaign in October 1991. "The ad is aimed at educating the consumer about dairy intolerance and offers Dairy Ease as a simple solution," explained a Sterling-Winthrop spokesman. In the commercial, a man selling ice cream discusses the fact that he couldn't digest ice cream, milk, or cheese until he discovered Dairy Ease.

FOOD VS. DRUG: Another such product is Lactase, manufactured by Murdock Pharmaceuticals, Springville, Utah. Director of marketing Neil Reay told Drug Topics that Lactase's main marketing strength lies in the fact that "we market Lactase primarily to the health food market rather than the OTC drug market; Lactase is found only in drug/food store outlets that have large health food/nutrition areas.

Based on "advertising support or mass-market distribution," Murdock doesn't consider Lactase to be one of the major players in the market, but Reay said that revenues for the product have been increasing steadily since it was first introduced about four years ago.

Schwarz Pharma, Milwaukee, has also developed a niche for its lactose intolerance product, Lactrase capsules. The product is marketed primarily to physicians, said Ken Long, senior product manager.

Over at McNeil Consumer Products, spokesman Ed Watson declined to release any specific marketing information about Lactaid, but he did note that the company's product is categorized as a food supplement rather than a nonprescription drug. Lactaid is available in both food and drugstores, however.

Another 1991 entry to the marketplace is Lactogest, from Thompson Medical Co. While she did not discuss any specific marketing strategies, Deborah Howard, assistant brand manager, said the company positions Lactogest as an OTC pharmaceutical, as opposed to a food product. It is available in both drugstores and food stores.

VARIETY OF FORMS: As the positioning of lactose intolerance products varies from company to company, so, too, do the forms they take.

Dairy Ease, for example, first appeared as a chewable tablet; it is now also available as a drop that can be added to milk and as a swallowable caplet. …