Drug Delivery and OTC Partnerships

Kassandra Kania

Pfizer�s Listerine PocketPaks are a good example of an in-novative OTC product launch using drug-delivery technology.

Reinventing a mouthwash that has been available over the counter since 1914 doesn�t sound like an opportunity for a successful product launch. But for Pfizer, that�s exactly what it was. The company�s Listerine PocketPaks made use of a drug delivery technology that filled consumers unmet needs for a portable, discreet method of freshening their breath.
The success of this product made it an oft-cited example at a workshop held during the Drug Delivery Partnerships 8th annual event in Beverly Hills in January. The session was titled �Optimizing Drug Delivery Partnerships with Consumer Products and OTC Companies: Enhancing Relationships and Realizing Opportunity.� It focused on how drug delivery can drive product success and the importance of understanding consumers� needs. 

The speakers on the panel, who have backgrounds in both pharmaceutical and drug delivery OTC products, included Magdy Abdel-Malik, PhD, director, technology search for Pfizer; Patricia McCullough, group vice president, Taro Pharmaceuticals; Uwe Koetter of GlaxoSmithKine; and Gerard McNally, PhD, senior director of R&D technologies, McNeil Consumer and Specialty Pharmaceuticals Co. 

Opportunities for OTC drug products are growing, said the panel. This is fueled by a variety of factors, including consumers� willingness to self-medicate, product differentiation, switches from prescription to OTC, and the impact of new technologies. In the past, said McNally, OTC drug-delivery technologies were presented in ethical packaging. �There were a lot of capsules and no flavors,� he said. New delivery forms offer real and perceived benefits. Packaging is directed toward the consumer and is easier to open. 

The panelists agreed that understanding the consumers� needs is paramount to positioning a new OTC technology. �To know the consumer, you must think like a consumer,� said McNally. Consider consumer preferences, advised McCullough. Often, technology benefits are outweighed by consumer perceptions. For example, when considering the �swallowability� of a drug, soft-gelatin capsules are perceived as being easier to swallow, she said. Demographics are also important. For the geriatric and pediatric patient populations, for example, it is important that medication is easy to swallow. Drug-delivery technologies should help increase compliance by improving the taste of the drug as well as easing administration. 

Abdel-Malik advises drug-delivery companies to seek an OTC partner prior to the late clinical stage so that consumers� needs are better understood. When choosing a partner, companies should look at the OTC partner�s strategic position and select a company that has a global presence. This offers greater potential markets for innovative OTC opportunities. Also, �select companies that have few flagship brands spread across a number of markets,� he said. Finally, size matters, so choose a large company that has a steady stream of Rx-to-OTC switches and offers various platform opportunities across divisions. Financial resources are also important for marketing and advertising OTC products. After all, consumers� choices will determine the product�s success.


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