Aleve out to hurt Cdn. painkillers

Canadian analgesic marketers might want to adopt siege mentality as Aleve, a powerhouse product in the u.s., prepares to launch in Canada.Within weeks of hitting u.s. shelves last June, Procter & Gamble's Aleve climbed to the No. 3 brand in the...

Canadian analgesic marketers might want to adopt siege mentality as Aleve, a powerhouse product in the u.s., prepares to launch in Canada.

Within weeks of hitting u.s. shelves last June, Procter & Gamble’s Aleve climbed to the No. 3 brand in the US$2.6 billion pain reliever market with a 6.5% share.

Last year, according to Nielsen Marketing Research, the Canadian over-the-counter (otc) analgesic market was worth more than $206 million.

While the entrance of a naproxen sodium pain reliever will doubtless shake up the Canadian category the same way, p&g may not be the product’s marketer here.

Beth Wanlin, manager of public relations for Hoffmann-La Roche, which makes the prescription version of naproxen sodium called Anaprox, says the strategy for taking naproxen sodium over the counter is now under review.

Wanlin says that while the company will not market the product, it is assessing whether p&g will be the Canadian licensee.

She says Hoffmann-La Roche has applied to Health Canada’s Health Protection Branch for approval to move it from prescription to non-prescription status.

The original manufacturer, Syntex, was bought by Hoffmann-La Roche, another prescription pharmaceutical company, late last year.

By Jan. 1, it had been merged into that company.

Wanlin says, in the past, the process of moving to non-prescription status has taken about two years in Canada.

The Canadian market, like the u.s. market before Aleve, is dominated by pain relievers containing acetaminophen, with Tylenol, a product of McNeil Consumer Products, in the lead.

In Canada, acetylsalicylic acid (asa), or aspirin products, are the next largest sector, followed by ibuprofen and its top brand, Advil, which entered the market in 1989.

That order is reversed in the u.s., with ibuprofen in No. 2 position and asa third.

There are three reasons for these differences in the markets:

- ibuprofen was introduced five years earlier in the u.s. than in Canada;

- while available without prescription since 1989 in Canada, ibuprofen has still had restricted access in many regions;

- and ibuprofen’s restricted access has also limited distribution channels to drugstores in most areas.

Ontario only recently allowed ibuprofen products to be moved to front shop.

In b.c., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia, they are still found behind pharmacist counters.

Pierre McClelland, marketing director for Whitehall-Robins, says he expects sales of his company’s ibuprofen product, Advil, which now has 6.1% of dollar share in the pain reliever category, to increase significantly now that it is within easy reach of consumers in more areas of the country, especially the substantial Ontario market.

The rapid success of Aleve could partly be attributed to the US$100 million of marketing power p&g has behind it.

That includes a US$60 million ad campaign from D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles of New York and the tagline, ‘All day long. All day strong.’

No one, including p&g, was prepared for such an overwhelming response.

Rosenberger says in the three months after the launch, Aleve captured twice the marketshare that Advil, the leading ibuprofen product, did in the same period after its 1984 u.s. introduction.

Retailers clamored for the product, and in its first five months, Aleve achieved 90% distribution in food, drug and mass market retailers.

Rosenberger says the demand was so great, to keep from running out of product, the company had to cut price promotions and step up production.

Aleve’s share of market has now stabilized between 5% and 5.5% in the u.s., putting it firmly in fourth position.