German women enjoying new dawn after EHC switches

It has been just over two months since the first Rx-to-OTC switch of an emergency contraceptive in Germany, the first results are in and they should make happy reading for EHC marketers. Industry sources indicate that week-on-week EHC sales are around 40% higher than before the switch, a just reward for HRA Pharma’s 5+ year struggle with regulatory agencies to get the switch pushed through. The mid-May 2015 figures show volume sales for all EHCs sitting between 13,000 and 13,500, with around three-quarters of these generated OTC.

Following years of living in one of only three EU countries without OTC access to EHCs – along with Poland and Italy – German women now have a choice between ulipristal acetate, found in ellaOne only, and levonorgestrel, switched to OTC a few weeks later, found in HRA Pharma’s PiDaNa, Gedeon Richter’s Postinor and Hexal’s Unofem. While HCPs and GP associations have generally spoken out in favour of ulipristal given the longer time period it allows to prevent pregnancy, levonorgestrel is said to be a strong alternative for women breastfeeding as well as those who suffer from heavy asthma.

Price may also be a significant factor for female consumers, with ellaOne’s recommended retail price set at €29.96 (€35.72 before the switch) compared to €18.31 for PiDaNa, €16.99 for Unofem and €15.97 for Postinor. Breaking down the spring sales geographically, the growth has come primarily in the major cities of Hamburg (+50% compared to before switch) and Berlin, although sales have been below average in the less affluent east German regions.

With only a year’s patent on ulipristal acetate, HRA Pharma, award winner of Nicholas Hall’s Most Innovative European New Product of the Year, will have to make hay while it can, with pharmacist and HCP backing crucial given that no consumer advertising is allowed.

For a more complete look at the issue of EHCs in Western markets, why not enquire about our recently published report Women’s Health: Obstacles & Opportunities. Contact nino.hunter@NicholasHall.com for more details.

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