A new study suggests that without physician support, OTC nicotine replacement drugs may be useless. This is interesting reading for GSK, which is the biggest producer of anti-smoking drugs. The news should boost prescription-only Zyban, but GSK may have to invest in physician support to maintain sales of NRT drugs Nicorette and NicoDerm.
A new article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has questioned the efficacy of over the counter (OTC) nicotine replacement therapies (NRT). The recent study also claims that NRTs are not effective in the absence of physician support.
The article is of particular interest to GlaxoSmithKline, which dominates both the OTC NRT market and the prescription nicotine pharmacotherapy market. GSK has two OTC drugs on the market, Nicorette and NicoDerm CQ, which generated sales of $269 million and $216 million in 2001, respectively. Meanwhile, its Zyban (bupropion) is the only non-NRT for nicotine addiction, and generated $186 million in 2001.
GSK's reaction to the report will be mixed. The suggestion that NRT are not effective without physician aid is good for the sales of Zyban. That drug, which is the same compound as GSK's antidepressant Wellbutrin but in lower doses, is expected to show significant growth over the next few years because of a once-daily formulation (Zyban XL) and clinical recommendations.
In April 2002, the UK's National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) issued a publication outlining the benefits of Zyban, in terms of clinical and cost effectiveness relative to NRTs in treating smoking cessation. Although Zyban has been available as a private prescription since its launch in June 2000, NICE's decision improved physician perception of the drug's capacity; this should feed through into increased prescription rates.
Although the study questions the efficacy of NRTs, it does highlight the need for support from healthcare professionals. GSK has been pioneering setting up advice centres to complement its OTC range, and these have shown excellent increased in cessation rates. GSK can use such data to promote its OTC products.
Related research: Datamonitor, "Substance Abuse Disorders" (BFHC0440)
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