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Prescription Nasacort AQ.

A challenge to advertising claims by Chattanooga-based Chattem over the company's newly launched Nasacort allergy nasal spray was turned down by a national panel.

"We're very pleased with the outcome," said Chattem President Robert Long about the National Advertising Division's finding that the company can support the ads for its Nasacort Allergy 24HR allergy relief medication.

Sales of Nasacort, which hit stores in February as an over-the-counter medicine rather than a prescription product, have exceeded $70 million through mid-July, according to Chattem.

The ad claims were challenged earlier this year by Merck Consumer Care Inc., which sold the rival Claritan over-the-counter drug last year. NAD is an investigative unit of the advertising industry's system of self-regulation. It is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

A key issue for NAD was whether Chattem's scientific evidence was sufficient to provide a reasonable basis for its claims.

Chattem had said "Nasacort and nasal sprays in the same medication class are considered the most effective treatment for hay fever and other respiratory allergies." It also said Nasacort is "The most effective OTC medicine for the treatment of nasal allergy symptoms."

In addition, NAD considered whether the advertising implied Nasacort provides relief for ocular allergy symptoms, is more effective than medicines in other classes of allergy medication, including Merck product Claritin, or provides 24-hour relief with a single dose.

NAD, following its review of the evidence in the record, determined that Chattem established a reasonable basis for each of the claims.

Merck contended Chattem offered no head-to-head testing to support its broad superiority claim regarding other over-the-counter medication. Also, it said, Chattem didn't provide head-to-head testing against other oral antihistamines, oral nasal decongestants or decongestant nasal sprays.

NAD said in its decision that there is "no question" that head-to-head studies of the parties' allergy relief products remain the gold standard of claim substantiation. At the same time, NAD said such testing is not the sole way to provide support for comparative performance claims, particularly when there is strong scientific consensus with regard to product efficacy.

NAD did recommend Chattem modify the claim that "INSs such as Nasacort Allergy 24HR can help clear up the full range of allergic rhinitis symptoms, including nasal congestion, for 24 hours," to clearly convey that Nasacort is indicated for use in treating nasal allergy symptoms.

Lori Lukus, a Chattem spokesman, said the company appreciated NAD's careful review of the scientific record.

"It's a great affirmation that our claims were upheld by this process," she said.

In May, Merck agreed to sell its consumer care business, including Claritin, to German drug maker Bayer for $14.2 billion.

Chattem is the consumer health care arm of French pharmaceutical titan Sanofi.

Contact Mike Pare at or 423-757-631.