- The Washington Times - Monday, December 20, 2004

Cold and flu medicine is evolving into forms — from medicated freezer pops and chewable tablets to instant-dissolving thin strips, nose swabs and foam gels — that are easier for parents to give to fussy children.

Pharmaceutical companies are quick to point out they are not eliminating their syrups, but they need the new forms to bring in more buyers and increase their market shares in the cold-remedy industry.

And with a flu-shot shortage, analysts say drug companies have a good chance of reaping stronger sales of over-the-counter cold products this flu season, which generally extends from November through March.

“It’s well known that if you have a medicine for children that must be taken orally, you must figure out how to administer it in the most pleasing way possible,” said David Moskowitz, managing director for the health care division at Arlington investment bank Friedman, Billings, Ramsey Group Inc.

Martixx Initiatives Inc., a Phoenix drug manufacturer, introduced its oral mist Zicam for children’s coughs in August to compete with traditional throat sprays.

The mist, which comes in honey lemon and cherry flavors, has a concentrated formula that dissolves instantly in the mouth, said marketing Vice President Mike Voevodsky.

“There is a lot of consumer baggage about sprays being harsh and heavy,” Mr. Voevodsky said.

Zicam sales, which include the mist and other cough, cold and sinus products, have shot up 29 percent for the quarter ended Sept. 5, the company said in its third-quarter results.

Martixx already has sold more than 1 million units of the cough mists since they started shipping in July, the company said.

For children who don’t like mists or sprays, Martixx also sellsa pint-sized medicated nose swab that takes even less time to administer.

The company is expecting total sales and netincome for 2004 to climb 30 percent from the previous year.

Cold, cough and flu medicine for children nationwide posted $311.7 million in sales from Nov. 1, 2003, to Oct. 31, 2004, according to a recent report by ACNielsen. That’s 9 percent of the total cold and flu market, which sells $3.51 billion in remedies each year.

Global pharmaceutical company Novartis AG, which sells medicines under the Triaminic and Theraflu brands, said sales to retailers of Triaminic, which include the recently introduced thin strips for children and adults, rose 16 percent from August to October over the comparable period last year.

Triaminic and Theraflu Thin Strips, designed after popular breath-freshener strips, dissolve when placed on the tongue.

Theraflu sales also were up 43 percent from a year earlier, said Debra D’Amico, senior brand manager for Novartis Consumer Health, the U.S. division of the company.

Ms. D’Amico would not disclose exact sales numbers for Triaminic or Theraflu.

Novartis said its consumer health sales, which include both brands, rose 12 percent during the third quarter ended Sept. 30 to $2.41 billion from $2.16 billion last year. The company is expecting “markedly higher” sales for 2004 over the previous year.

But developing a dosage form more appealing to children becomes a “two-edged sword,” said Carlton Lee, a clinical specialist in the pediatrics department at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

“There is a fine line of creating medicines that look more like candy. You don’t want to create an association that medicine is candy,” he said.

Mr. Lee advised parents, who are unsure of the new medicines, to stick with more traditional ones.

Still, one benefit several drug companies have touted is the more accurate doses the newer medicines can dispense compared with pouring syrup into a spoon or measuring cup.

Taro Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., a Hawthorne, N.Y., pharmaceutical company, began selling its flu and cold medicine ElixSure, a liquid that quickly turns into a gel, at the beginning of last year’s flu season.

The gel’s selling point is its sturdy hold on spoons, allowing parents to measure accurate dosages, said Bob Carraher, group vice president for sales and marketing at Taro Consumer Health Care Products, the consumer products subsidiary.

Mr. Carraher would not give ElixSure sales numbers but said the company expects the gel to do better this flu season than last year.

Taro’s sales in the third quarter ended Sept. 30 were down 12 percent to $73.3 million from $83.1 million a year earlier.

But not all companies believe the new medicine forms will beat the standbys.

Wyeth, which sells the Robitussin and Dimetapp brands, reformulated its grape taste for its syrups but plans to stick with liquids, said spokesman Fran Sullivan.

“In our instance it was best to go with the liquid formulation,” Mr. Sullivan said, refusing to discuss sales.

Procter & Gamble Inc., which sells Vicks Nyquil for children, also plans to stick with liquid, said spokesman Ashoke Mitra.

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