Allegra leaps to No. 2 in 5 months

Allegra leaps to No. 2 in 5 months

July 30th, 2011 by Mike Pare in Business

Allergy medicine Allegra, launched as an over-the-counter drug by Chattem in March, hit about $204 million in U.S. sales in the first half of the year and climbed to second place in its segment.

"In mid-February it wasn't even on the shelf," said Robert Long, Chattem's chief financial officer, noting Allegra has leapfrogged other brands such as Zyrtec to trail just market leader Claritin.

Introducing the former prescription-only Allegra at the start of allergy season helped drive sales, official said.

Blair Ramey, Chattem's vice president of marketing, said it was key that Allegra hit store shelves in the first week of March.

"We were hitting retailers [Thursday] March 3 ... so consumers could buy it through the weekend," he said. "By March 7, it was in full national distribution."

Ramey said Chattem shipped 175,000 assembled product displays on the first day and over 8 million units in a 24-hour period.

"It all made the retail shelves by the end of the weekend," he said.

Earlier this week, top officials of Sanofi, the Paris-based parent of Chattem, said in a conference call with analysts that the Allegra launch helped boost its consumer health care division. Sales in the division rose by almost 18 percent in its second quarter, Sanofi reported.

"Consumer health care was clearly driven by the Allegra launch," said Sanofi Chief Executive Officer Chris Viehbacher.

Hanspeter Spek, Sanofi president of global operations, said first half sales of Allegra made up about $204 million of Sanofi's consumer health care division's approximately $1.9 billion in revenues.

"We are quite proud confirming this achievement," he said.

Long declined to speculate on Allegra sales prospects.

"The brand is performing well," he said.

Zan Guerry, Chattem's chief executive officer, earlier said the company is aiming for annual Allegra sales of $250 million to $350 million.

Claritin maker Merck on Friday posted Claritin sales of $301 million in the first half of the year.

Eighty percent of Allegra's over-the-counter sales were by people who weren't buying it as a prescription, Chattem's Ramey said.

"It will continue to build," he said about sales.

Long said Chattem plans to start producing liquid children's Allegra in Chattanooga early next year.

He said that growing the business as well as its other brands such as Gold Bond and Icy Hot is a continued focus.

Long said the company continues to bring on workers, having added about 25 people since Jan. 1 to put the company's head count at around 600 people, including sales.