Wyeth launches FDA approved OTC Alavert.
Although the ink is still fresh on Schering-Plough Corp.'s point-of-purchasedisplays and print ads for its over-the-counter version of Claritin(loratadine) (Drug Topics, Dec. 16), there's already a second OTCallergy drug hitting drugstore shelves.
Wyeth Consumer Healthcare, Madison, N.J., recently received the nod from theFood & Drug Administration for OTC Alavert (10-mg loratadine orallydisintegrating tablets) and is offering the product in 6-, 12-, 24-, and48-count packages.
Robert Seidman, v.p. and chief pharmacy officer at WellPoint HealthNetworks, Thousand Oaks, Calif., told Drug Topics, "We're helpingwith the launch of Alavert. We've been working with Wyeth Consumer sinceAlavert was a glimmer in their eye. We're mailing out 438,000 letters to all ofour members in our database who have a history of taking any of thesecond-generation antihistamines-Claritin, Allegra, Zyrtec, or Clarinex-duringthe past six months." The letter, which will be mailed this month, willinclude three $10 Alavert coupons good through June.
According to Seidman, it's important to look at this from the perspective ofthe growing unaffordability of the pharmacy benefit. The dollars that will besaved from Claritin and Alavert going OTC will be used to protect theaffordability of the benefit because "the soon-to-be-available gene-basedand biotech drugs will be costing thousands of dollars," he said.
"Historically, the higher cost of prescription antihistamines andphysician office visits has been paid, in part, by members through their healthinsurance premiums. The movement to OTC nonsedating antihistamines helps usmitigate the rise in health insurance premiums. It also helps us directresources to life-essential medications developed by the pharmaceuticalindustry in other therapeutic classes," said WellPoint's Seidman.
The suggested retail prices for Alavert are $5.99 for a six-count package,$10.99 for 12, $18.99 for 24, and $26.99 for 48.
Wyeth Consumer Healthcare spokesman Francis Sullivan told Drug Topics,"As an OTC division we have everything to gain from this product. WithSchering-Plough having the OTC Claritin, the question now is how is Alavertgoing to compete with this blockbuster and with Schering's expertise?" Hebelieves there is more than enough room in the market for two players."Schering had a $3 billion Rx product that's now going OTC. BeforeAlavert, we didn't have a nonsedating antihistamine. Of course, we want acertain percentage of the sales, but we're going from zero to wherever we go.It's exciting to be the main competitor."
Sullivan said Alavert, which is now offered in a quick-dissolving tabletform that can be taken with or without water, would be available in additionalformulations later this year. The second formulation, a swallow tab, is slatedto debut this spring. "As we move through 2003, you'll see Alavert-D[decongestant], and by the summer or end of summer, you will see a liquid,which will be mainly for children, with a flavoring like Claritin's fruit punchliquid," he said.
When it comes to Wyeth's advertising and promotional plans for Alavert,Sullivan said the firm plans to unleash an ad campaign that will cost close to$50 million in its first year. The campaign will include print, TV, and radioads. A $4 coupon is available at http://www.alavert.com/.Wyeth will provide point-of-purchase displays to pharmacies, supermarkets, andmass-merchandisers. The campaign will also include in-store announcements insupermarkets. "The way this shapes up is Alavert and Claritin are the onlytwo players now. You'll see us go head to head on a lot of these things,"he said.
It appears safe to say that Alavert and Claritin won't be the only twoplayers for long. Novartis and several generic manufacturers, including AndrxPharmaceuticals, Weston, Fla., are reportedly poised to launch their own OTCversions of loratadine.
Sandra Levy. Move over OTC Claritin; make way for Wyeth's Alavert.