Even as more and more pseudoephedrine products are pulled behind the pharmacy counter-moves that are expected to impact the cough-cold and allergy categories negatively this fall--a report issued from Kalorama Information last month estimates the cough-cold sinus and allergy medication market could reach a base of $4.9 billion by 2009 from its 2004 dollar total of $4.4 billion.
In fact, that growth could be realized even as PSE is effectively removed from the market. "It remains to be seen if marketers will feel that it is worth or even possible to educate consumers sufficiently about active decongestant ingredients to differentiate PSE products and maintain strong demand," noted Steven Heffner, publisher of the July, cough-cold market study. Given the current state of the market, we do not anticipate consumers will go the extra mile unless there is such an educational/promotional effort."
And if consumers won t go that extra mile, the days of PSE serving as a viable decongestant over-the-counter may be numbered.
Already, Oregon has passed legislation mandating that PSE be sold only with a description--to date the most restrictive legislation on the books. Federal legislation currently under deliberation has the potential to classify PSE as a schedule V drug, which would make it a prescription-only option in 14 additional states. Every major retail outlet has at least pulled single-ingredient PSE behind the pharmacy counter. A few, such as Rite Aid, also have pulled combination PSE products behind the counter, and Walgreens recently announced its decision to pull all PSE ingredients to a placement behind the pharmacy, including liquids and liqui-gels.
However, consumers are still going to come down with a cold or flu, or sneeze their way through hay fever season. And that means they will still make the trek to the drug store counter in search of relief. So much so that they will grow the entire cough/cold allergy/sinus market by an average 2.1 percent each year to reach that projection of $4.9 billion by 2009.
A lot of that has to do with the expected switch of the three next-generation antihistamines that are still sold through a, prescription--Sanofi-Aventis Allegra, Pfizer's Zyrtec and Schering-Plough's Clarinex. Allegra could lose patent protection as early as 2006, depending upon how a trial challeging that patent breaks, and the patents for Zyrtec and Clarinex are scheduled to expire in 2007, according to the Kalorama report.
And while the switch of any of these medicines is not expected to generate the amount of increased traffic to the allergy aisle that Claritin and other loratadine products created at the time of their launch, switch equals growth. Other potential switch candidates include Schering-Plough s Nasonex and GlaxoSmithKline s Flonase.
The fact that all of these potential switch candidates are indicated against the relief of allergy also bodes well for the category. It goes to reason that chronic allergy sufferers are more frequent purchasers than people who have a cold, seeking allergy relief over the course of the year as opposed to a seven-month cough-cold season.
And while Schering-Plough faces increased competition from private label loratadine sales, the company is still line extending its Claritin brand. Last month, the company launched a grape-flavored Children's Claritin Syrup.
MICHAEL JOHNSEN CATEGORY SPECIALIST
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