Magazine article Drug Topics

Marketing Switch

Magazine article Drug Topics

Marketing Switch

Article excerpt

Habitrol patch to switch to OTC, but, first, a private-label form will appear on pharmacy shelves

Consumers who want to quit smoking in the new millennium now will have a fourth over-the-counter nicotine patch to choose from. Novartis Consumer Health, Summit, N.J., has received Food & Drug Administration approval for a supplemental New Drug Application to change its Habitrol (nicotine transdermal system) patch from prescription to OTC status.

The other OTC nicotine patches currently on the market are Smith-- Kline Beecham's NicoDerm CQ, Elan Corp.'s patch (formerly ProStep by Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories) in private-label form, and McNeil Consumer Products' Nicotrol.

Katherine King, Novartis spokeswoman, told Drug Topics that the OTC patch will debut at Walgreens and CVS under their private labels and at Wal-Mart under the Equate product line. "These are the first three of what will be many privatelabel accounts. There will be a Habitrol patch at some point, but it won't be available immediately. We're first focusing on this private-- label strategy," she said.

Habitrol is a three-step dosage program, King explained. It offers 24-hour doses consisting of 20-mg, 14-mg, and 7-mg strengths. Consumers typically use the higher strength if they are heavy smokers, she said. Lighter smokers start at the 14-mg dose. "You are bit-by-bit reducing the amount of nicotine in the system, so that you're almost weaning the person off the nicotine, which is less severe than going from a lot of nicotine to no nicotine. This eases the transition," she said.

Emphasizing that OTC nicotine-- replacement products are kept behind the pharmacy counter, King said that pharmacists can advise patients regarding the correct dosage. While she would not disclose the price of the OTC patch, she said it will sell for about $5 less than branded patches on the market. "The private-label industry in smoking cessation is a huge untapped market, and we'll be able to provide these patches at what we feel is a generous cost savings to the consumer. Because of the cost advantage and the power of the retail outlets' own brands, we think this will be a real successful endeavor for Novartis. The thing we've always focused on is the three steps, and we think this is another advantage. We also think the dosage levels are ideal," she said.

When it comes to advertising the patch, King said Novartis may provide some support to pharmacies and patients. An accompanying program consists of a relaxation and stress relief compact disc, a brochure about the product, and an 800-number to call for support. …

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