Retailers are anxiously awaiting arrival of Aleve, the newly approved over-the-counter version of the pain reliever drug naproxen sodium, and only the fourth analgesic ingredient to be available OTC. Naproxen sodium was previously available only in prescription form under the trade name Anaprox. Aleve is the first non-prescription pain reliever containing a new analgesic ingredient to gain Food & Drug Administration approval since the 1984 switch of ibuprofen 200 mg.
Aleve is said to provide pain relief for up to 12 hours at a time and comes in 24-, 50- and 100-count safety squeeze bottles that can be easily opened by adults, including those with restricted hand mobility. Procter & Gamble will market the drug, which is manufactured by Syntex Corp. The two companies formed a joint venture to market and produce a nonprescription version of Naprosyn (containing naproxen) back in 1988. Last year, the two partners changed their application to a low dose form of a related compound called Anaprox. On Jan. 11, P&G and Syntex received clearance from FDA to begin manufacturing the low dose formulation containing 200 mg. naproxen and 20 mg. sodium.
Aleve will be shipped to retailers this spring, and is expected to heat up competition in the analgesics category, health and beauty care executives told SN. Because naproxen previously had been available only in prescription form, "it's a heck of a drug that consumers now will embrace and probably be a dynamite item," said Jim Miller, director of nonfood for Piggly Wiggly, a division of Fleming Cos. based in Memphis, Tenn.
"Everybody I know who has a problem with arthritis takes Naprosyn, which is ranked No. 1 in arthritis medicine." Miller intends on first reviewing the manufacturer's merchandising and promotion strategy before he begins mapping out plans to introduce the brand to customers. "It's definitely a meaningful item and will be like Tavist D, which when it went OTC was heavily advertised and became one heck of an item. It will probably stir up promotional opportunities and activities in the analgesics category as other manufacturers react to it entering the market," Miller added.
As a major new OTC switch Aleve should stimulate new promotional opportunities in the analgesics category. Aleve "will definitely be a meaningful intro-
duction to analgesics. As another OTC switch from pharmacy to the HBC aisle it will also be business we didn't have before, as well as a lot of advertising dollars," said Mark Beyer, HBC buyer at Copps Corp., Stevens Point, Wis. As soon as Aleve becomes available Copps will "want to get it up as soon as possible as we do with any OTC switches," added Beyer. Although he hadn't yet been presented with the product, Beyer was confident Aleve "will surely help fortify analgesics sales. It's a highly prescribed product for arthritis and should also put a dent into Tylenol, Beyer and Advil sales." For the present Copps is planning to highlight Aleve as it "normally does with OTC switches by advertising it as soon as we can to let people know it's available. We'll introduce it with displays and ads as soon as we can get our hands on it," Beyer said. Consumers "have probably been on the sidelines waiting for the switched item, and it will probably be just like the other switches including Tavist, which started selling right away."
When Al Booth, director of general merchandise and HBC for Jitney Jungle Stores of America, Jackson, Miss., learned the new OTC switch had been approved, he sat down at his "home PC and dialed up the FDA's bulletin board for details, including its name." Booth said "the OTC switch will be a pretty good introduction. The two major applications are in arthritis and menstrual pain, and there's a good market out there." He added however that consumer response to the new analgesic "depends on what slant P&G takes on advertising in targeting these two usage areas." Booth was planning to contact P&G in anticipation of marketing and merchandising Aleve in the chain's 100 stores "as we do with any significant new item by being first in the market." Formulating the way Aleve will be introduced at company stores, he said "hinges on the manufacturer's marketing strategy. "A lot depends on what P&G will be doing with it, and whether there will be couponing and floor stands and anything of that nature, or what vehicles will be available to us." Booth anticipates Aleve impacting sales of other analgesics products. "With manufacturer and retailer promotions there will probably be some crossover from other analgesics brands as consumers buy the new item, and it will have an impact," he said. "There are people who take one product or another for arthritis and they perceive Aleve will give them a greater benefit. They will at least be willing to try it and if that happens they will switchover, particularly the arthritis sufferers."