OTC Medications: Novartis Consumer Healthcare

IN-STORE EXECUTION: Within four days of the launch of Prevacid 24HR, Novartis had product on 84% of retailers' shelves. SHOPPER INSIGHTS: Conducts category-leading shopper insight research to help retailers better manage overall categories. DIVERSE PORTFOLIO: Produces innovative medicines, preventive vaccines, cost-effective generics and self-care products. ON NOV. 12, 2009, Novartis shipped 450 truckloads

  • IN-STORE EXECUTION: Within four days of the launch of Prevacid 24HR, Novartis had product on 84% of retailers' shelves.
  • SHOPPER INSIGHTS: Conducts category-leading shopper insight research to help retailers better manage overall categories.
  • DIVERSE PORTFOLIO: Produces innovative medicines, preventive vaccines, cost-effective generics and self-care products.

ON NOV. 12, 2009, Novartis shipped 450 truckloads of its prescription to over-the-counter switch of the frequent heartburn drug Prevacid 24HR to retailers nationwide. Within four days of the launch, the product, billed as “the first and only OTC Proton Pump Inhibitor for the treatment of frequent heartburn in its original formulation,” was on shelf at 84% of all retail locations.

“From the outset, we were able to build a global supply and logistics network that allowed us to bring Prevacid 24HR to the shelves quickly. While we were able to deliver the product quickly, we didn't develop it overnight,” wrote Novartis in a prepared statement to SN.

The company said that throughout the nearly three-year process that brought Prevacid 24HR to market, the support of retailers was unprecedented.

Novartis co-planned with each retailer to develop initiatives that linked to their specific needs and strategy platforms, meeting with retailers at their own headquarters and partnering with them to develop an integrated message through breakthrough POS, loyalty and co-op advertising programs.

“We always aim to bring products to market that generate incremental sales and profit for the retailers. Specifically in the case of Prevacid 24HR, the business was significantly incremental to the PPI category,” Novartis said.

Jim Wisner, president, Wisner Marketing Group, Libertyville, Ill., said Novartis did a good job in supporting the Prevacid switch. “They expanded the category [with new users] and had a positive impact on public health care.”

At retail, Novartis built in-store excitement by developing and distributing educational “launch” kits to store management and leveraged traditional and evolving communications platforms including social media, word of mouth, customer relationship management and digital as well as print, out-of-home, public relations and consumer promotions. This drove early consumer awareness and adoption across all the consumer targets.

Media sources reported that Novartis spent $200 million in advertising the heartburn drug. Prevacid went up against another PPI frequent heartburn drug from Procter & Gamble, Prilosec, which went OTC in 2003. The differences in the two drugs are in their active ingredients.

Charlie Hough, general manager of Novartis' OTC business in the U.S., told the Wall Street Journal that Novartis intends to make Prevacid 24HR a top-five OTC brand in the U.S. The company's marketing campaign focuses on the emotional difficulties of heartburn sufferers.

Also in the stomach segment, Novartis launched Gas-X Prevention. It's a dietary supplement that can help prevent gas caused by certain problem foods before it starts.

Gas-X Prevention contains a natural food enzyme (alpha galactosidase) that breaks down these complex carbohydrates before they can produce gas, allowing for easier digestion.

Novartis also attempted to relieve some confusion and concern of parents and caregivers about safety with children's use of analgesics. The company launched Triaminic Fever Reducer Pain Reliever, containing the active ingredient acetaminophen, for children ages 2-11. This month, Novartis is launching Triaminic Infants' Concentrated Drops Fever Reducer Pain Reliever for children ages 2 to 3.

Food retailers recognize Novartis for forging strong partnerships in bringing new OTCs to market and in providing shopper insights to help retailers manage the overall health care categories in which Novartis plays.

“When we decide to bring a new product to market, we begin by working with our retailer customers, developing programs that are mutually beneficial. And the diversity of our portfolio furthers that and allows us to help meet the needs of the retailers by linking our initiatives with their health platforms,” Novartis said in a statement.