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Becton-Dickinson helps drug chains bolster profits.

FRANKLIN LAKES, N.J. -- An array of initiatives at Becton-Dickinson Consumer Health Care (B-D) is helping chain drug retailers boost their front-end profits.

The acquisition of the Tru-Fit brand of elastic health supports, continued innovation in diabetes care, the launch of infrared ear thermometers and an entry into the home blood pressure monitor category have enhanced B-D's already commanding position in the health care products market.

The purchase of Tru-Fit Marketing Corp. has significantly extended B-D's dominance of the elastic health support category. With its Ace brand of supports for acute injuries for weekend warriors, the company already had the top-selling brand on the market, according to data from Information Resources Inc. cited by B-D executives. Now its portfolio runs from Ace through the Bauer & Black line for such chronic conditions as arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome, and Tru-Fit products for specific joints.

"With the acquisition of Tru-Fit we are positioned very well to provide the trade with multiple brands to meet specific needs," says senior product manager Nancy Litchfield.

B-D is now able to comprehensively address all seven segments in the elastic health support arena - bandages, braces, sports tape, athletic supporters, belts and suspensories, graduated support hosiery, and hot and cold therapy products. In meeting demand in each segment the supplier offers Ace elastic bandages; Ace and Tru-Fit woven and neoprene braces, and Bauer & Black woven and nylon braces; Ace sports tape; Ace and Bauer & Black athletic supporters; Bauer & Black belts and suspensories and hosiery; and Ace and Tru-Fit reusable cold products, instant cold products, and hot and cold compresses and compression wraps.

Most recently B-D entered and other area of sports medicine with the launch of the Ace topical analgesic patch. The patch essentially has the same active ingredients as a topical analgesic, says Litchfield, adding that it can be applied to the affected body area without the messiness of creams and ointments.

There are also two new Ace products for ankles. The Ace Ankle Support features rigid splints on both the lateral and medial sides to prevent twisting. The Ace Ankle Support Plus comes with Ace reusable cold compresses. The support can be used with the compresses to apply cold directly to the ankle or with soft foam in place of the compresses. The idea is to be able to wear the product in either a cold therapy mode or an active mode to prevent turning.

And last year B-D extended its Ace reusable cold compress line with a large size to cover more body area.

Ace historically has affiliated with such sports organizations as USA Gymnastics and has retained gymnast Kerri Strug as its spokeswoman for several years. Such partnerships will continue to be explored for Ace, while Bauer & Black will keep identifying opportunities in chronic care segments. "And Tru-Fit is an addition to our product lineup for which we re looking for exciting new programs," says Litchfield.

In the diabetes syringe arena B-D is building on its 90% share with the new Ultrafine 2 short syringe. According to Ten Grajo, B-D's market manager for insulin delivery, it is the only 30-gauge needle on the market and is also the sole pen needle with half-unit demarcations, which allow patients to dose in half-unit increments. B-D also recently launched the only 31-gauge pen needle in the U.S. The latest introductions extend the company's already broad range of syringes targeted to many different needs.

In the lancet segment the company offers a 30-gauge product that Grajo calls "the smallest, finest, best lancet out there."

B-D also provides a free take-home kit with educational literature for patients who are new to insulin and continues to advertise in diabetes journals and run retail promotions. It offers professional education programs and maintains active relations with diabetes associations as well.

A disease state management program is marketed by the company to diabetes centers, but drug chains could tie in. "As we move forward we think that the chains and particularly the pharmacists may have to take a larger role in education. We have a program that helps the health care provider manage the disease state," notes Grajo.

B-D, which has been in the thermometer market for over a century, entered a new segment of the category in the spring when it launched the B-D Assure infrared ear thermometer.

The product features unique, patented technology that allows it to continuously read temperatures in the ear and record only the highest reading it obtains. This "scanning" technology was developed for use in hospitals, says B-D product manager for fever Teresa Vasta.

The B-D Assure does not require probe covers and is easy to clean, she adds. Approved by the Food and Drug Administration in May, it began shipping later that month. It extends B-D's line of oral, rectal and underarm thermometers.

B-D Assure is being supported with print ads and a feature on the "Better Parenting" syndicated TV show. The company also is promoting the product year-round and providing free brochures on fever and infrared technology.

The company penetrated a category that has been growing 20% annually with the August launch of B-D Assure home blood pressure monitors. The category growth had been attained with negligible marketing, says senior product manager Shelley Goldberg, stressing that B-D sees an opportunity to propel annual category sales from $220 million to nearly $900 million within five years.

The drivers for that potential 250% growth are patient education and physician sampling, she says. The launch of B-D Assure "is really going to legitimize in a way the home blood pressure monitor category and grow it tremendously," she says.

What's most innovative in the rollout is the educational focus. Current monitors have suffered from a reputation for inaccuracy, because patients are either selecting an inappropriate device or using an appropriate one incorrectly, notes Goldberg. Every B-D Assure monitor comes with an instructional video, as well as large-type, easy-to-read directions that will be simple to follow for the many elderly citizens and people with low education levels who suffer from hypertension, she points out.

B-D also is undertaking extensive detailing to give doctors and nurses demonstrations on the monitors' use so they in turn can train patients. As well as leaving doctors offices knowing how to use the devices, patients will get a coupon for any of the five models in the B-D Assure line. Each box features a product selection guide, ensuring that patients will make an intelligent choice and get accurate readings, explains Goldberg. People with large upper arms, for example, will be warned on the front cover of the line's conventional monitors that a wrist monitor would be a better choice. They will be directed to the B-D Assure portable wrist monitor, which fits like a watch and has a screen right on it for digital readings.

"By doing all of these things we're really going to enhance the reputation of home blood pressure monitors and therefore really expand the category," Goldberg remarks.

She emphasizes that the diabetes care market has already demonstrated the potential for home monitoring. Diabetics who require insulin are instructed to test their blood sugar every day. "That's something that's painful, and it's expensive because they have to keep buying strips, yet the doctors tell them they have to do it and record their readings in a diary. Yet in the treatment of high blood pressure - which affects so many more people - this isn't done. We can really make a difference in this category and maybe make the management of hypertension more like the management of diabetes, where people are routinely monitoring at home.

"We think that we can manage this category similarly to the way in which we have managed our diabetes products by providing patient education materials. Just as we provide blood glucose diaries to people with diabetes we'll be providing blood pressure diaries to get hypertension sufferers to take better care of themselves."

Goldberg notes that B-D surveyed endocrinologists about their diabetic patients, half of whom have high blood pressure. Only 20% of those patients monitor their blood pressure, even though the doctors believe 70% could benefit from the practice. "So the category could be three and a half times its size if doctors were convinced that there was a good monitor out there and could recommend it," she says.

Shortly after the company began shipping B-D Assure the line drew raves at the American Association of Diabetes Educators conference at the end of August, she notes. Nurses who train patients in diabetes management saw "just a phenomenal opportunity" to help their patients manage their hypertension, says Goldberg. "They were just clamoring for samples and patient education material. We had a line at our booth for the duration of the conference of people wanting to try it on themselves."

The new line is steadily winning acceptance from retailers, she says, adding that the products ideally should be merchandised in front of the pharmacy counter. Conventional wisdom places monitors behind the counter because of their value, but that prevents shoppers from being able to handle them and read the box. B-D, she stresses, source tags the B-D Assure line to deter theft of the monitors, which are priced from $40 to $90. And while retailers tend to display anywhere from two to six SKUs, Goldberg says the right number of models to maximize profitability is six.

Advertising for the B-D Assure line will begin in diabetes journals in November and eventually spread to mainstream consumer publications.
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Publication:Chain Drug Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 26, 1998
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