Lifestyle OTCs still the best hope for OTC switch revival

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2019 has been a slow year for Rx-to-OTC switch news, with activity dropping off markedly in the key US market in recent years, and Asia-Pacific (especially China, Japan and Indonesia) and Europe (Poland especially) the main source of developments. In this context, it was welcome news last week that Norway will become the second European market for OTC Viagra, after the Norwegian Medicines Agency approved the OTC sale of Viagra Reseptfri (Pfizer, sildenafil 50mg) erectile dysfunction treatment to men aged 18+ years, with this to be accompanied by pharmacist advice.

Pfizer plans to launch Viagra Reseptfri in pharmacies in early 2020, while Rx Viagra will remain available. The medicines agency recommends that men have a check-up with their doctor within six months of purchase so that any potential underlying conditions can be investigated. Viagra Reseptfri will be the first medicine available in Norway under the country’s new category of non-prescription medicine with guidance, and the Rx-to-OTC switch follows similar measures elsewhere in Europe. In Poland, sildenafil 25mg is available OTC from a number of domestic players, with initial launch from Adamed in May 2016, while Viagra Connect was launched in the UK in March 2018.

Of the 20 key markets covered by OTC New Products Tracker every month since the start of 2013, Poland has been the most active in terms of Rx-to-OTC switch activity, with 54 products reclassified to non-prescription status. A liberal switch environment has helped bring about a raft of Rx-to-OTC switches since 2014, including Europe’s first OTC erectile dysfunction brand and Poland’s first OTC systemic cold sore treatment.

Viagra Norway

Despite some notable failures (such as urinary product Flomax Relief), so-called “lifestyle” drugs remain the primary source of switch activity, helping to extend the reach of the OTC market into new categories such as contraception, erectile dysfunction and cardiovascular disease. A key switch development in 2019 was the downscheduling in Japan of Taisho’s hyperlipidaemia treatment Epadel T (ethyl eicosapentaenoate) to Class I OTC, where sales are permitted in pharmacies (and online) after professional consultation. Downscheduling may have come just in the nick of time – sales data suggest Epadel T had failed to make any noticeable impact on the OTC market in its almost six years as an Instruction-Required Drug.

There also remains hope that Sanofi may one day market Eli Lilly’s erectile dysfunction treatment Cialis as an OTC medicine (it owns the rights to market Cialis OTC in the USA, UK, Canada and Australia), but is switch application has been stuck at the FDA a full five years since its submission. In July 2019, Sanofi also signed a deal with Roche for the exclusive OTC rights to Tamiflu (oseltamivir 75mg capsules, Genentech / Roche Group) for flu prevention and treatment in the USA. Under the terms of the agreement, Sanofi will be responsible for leading negotiations with the US FDA for the OTC switch and subsequent exclusive marketing, scientific engagement and distribution of Tamiflu OTC in the USA. Let’s hope for the sake of OTC growth that its negotiations go smoothly.

Clear your diary for Nicholas Hall’s 31st European Conference, which will be held in Athens on 28-30 April 2020, on the theme of Advancing in CHC: The Must-Dos and  Reasons Behind Them. To register your interest in this event, or for more information on sponsorship opportunities, please contact jennifer.odonnell@NicholasHall.com.

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Q3 2017: Global OTC growth stays at 4.7%

According to the latest figures published by Nicholas Hall’s global OTC sales database DB6, the OTC market maintained 4.6% growth in MAT Q3 2017. Commenting on the results, DB6 VP Celine Waller said: “Russia remained the fastest-growing leading market, though its growth slowed slightly compared to MAT Q2 2017 (+17.3%). Brazil and Turkey (+13.1%) also both achieved double-digit growth. Growth in the US increased marginally, with an improved performance in cough & cold offset by continued weakness in gastrointestinals and dermatologicals. France and Australia (-0.7%) remained in decline – France owing to the poor performance of the large OTx sector and reverse switch of some cough ingredients, and Australia driven by a slowdown in demand from Chinese consumers buying VMS products for resale in China (daigou or ‘suitcase entrepreneurs’).”

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Though OTC growth remains high in many of the Emerging Markets, the established markets of North America, Japan (+0.6%) and western Europe – notably Germany (+1.8%), France (-1.2%), Italy (+2.0) and UK (+1.7%) – remain relatively flat. Innovative Rx-to-OTC switches, such as the UK MHRA’s recent approval of the POM-to-P reclassification of Viagra Connect, or the emergence of new OTC categories, such as e-cigarettes or medical cannabis, offer the most promising route back to growth for many of these established OTC markets.

Nicholas Hall said: “Q3 data confirms 4.6% as the baseline for CHC growth, and frankly it’s not good enough!! Only the sleepiest or most risk-averse companies will accept competing in a market where growth is only modestly ahead of inflation + higher population. That is why the first serious step by Pfizer to switch Viagra is so important. Since we made our first detailed review of the ED category for a Big Pharma client exactly 5 years ago, we have been convinced that Viagra is potentially the world’s largest consumer health brand. Some might say that it already is, although that would be true only for the use of the Viagra brand name on the internet as most of the blue pills sold in that channel are not from Pfizer. As a legitimate CHC category, and with recreational use included — which Big Pharma companies dislike as they see ED brands as treatments — the overall CHC reproductive health category, including ED brands, condoms, oral contraceptives, EHC and conception products and diagnostics, could easily reach sales of US$20bn at MSP in all channels of distribution.”