Procter & Gamble plans big campaign for 'Aleve'

June 17, 1994|By New York Times News Service

What price pain relief? America's largest marketer is joining with a major drug company to risk more than $100 million on the notion they can squeeze yet another analgesic onto overcrowded store shelves.

The Procter & Gamble Co., which dominates product categories like detergent and toothpaste, and the Syntex Corp., which markets prescription drugs like Naprosyn and Anaprox, are teaming up to introduce an over-the-counter pain reliever called Aleve. It is the first new brand in that intensely competitive market, with annual sales of $2.4 billion to $2.6 billion, since ibuprofen began being offered directly to consumers a decade ago under names like Advil and Motrin IB.

Like those brands, Aleve -- pronounced "a-LEAVE," to connote "alleviate" or "relieve" -- is a nonprescription, lower-dosage version of a popular prescription drug. Aleve is an over-the-counter form of naproxen sodium, the active ingredients found in Anaprox, a fast-acting version of Naprosyn; Syntex's American sales of Anaprox and Naprosyn during the year ending last July totaled almost $700 million.

"We are going to see Aleve advertising everywhere we look," Ronald Nordmann, a managing director with Paine Webber Inc. in New York who follows the pharmaceutical industry, said yesterday. "The noise in the marketplace is going to be extremely loud."

"Each market-share point will be expensive for the companies on the offense, like P&G and Syntex," he added, "and for the companies on the defense, like everyone else."

The analgesic wars have always been hard fought, dating to the days when ads featured Bufferin racing aspirin through the bloodstream, hammers pounding on anvils to illustrate the pain Anacin would relieve and Bayer asserting that it worked "wonders." But since ibuprofen joined acetaminophen (brands like Tylenol), aspirin-based products (Anacin) and aspirin in medicine cabinets, new products are succeeding only at the expense of old ones.

That is the primary reason the ambitious advertising, marketing and promotion efforts for Aleve, aimed at consumers and health care professionals, will cost more than $100 million in the brand's first year. "I will say, that's a lot of money," Thomas A. Moore, the president of health care products for P&G, joked at a news conference yesterday in Manhattan.

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