Philippe Boucher's Rendez-vous with . . . Leslie A. Ashburn

Rendez-vous with . . . Leslie A. Ashburn

Communications Supervisor for GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

January 29, 2001

PB: Thank you Leslie for accepting our rendez-vous.

Q1. You are launching a new nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). Can you give us some numbers about the NRT market in the US now? How many people are concerned, how much do they spend globally and on average to buy the products, how much do you spend for promotion and advertising?

L A: Actually, our latest stop smoking option, Nicorette Orange does not represent a new NRT per se; rather, it is a new flavor of Nicorette nicotine gum. To give you an idea of what the NRT market is like: there are nearly 50 million smokers in the U.S., and surveys indicate that 70 percent of all smokers want to quit. An estimated 3.8 million annual quit efforts are attributable to the over-the-counter availability of nicotine medications.

In 1999, SmithKline Beecham Consumer Healthcare's (now known as GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare, or GSK), combined U.S. sales of Nicorette and NicoDerm CQ reached $570 million. Sales of the NiQuitin CQ patch, available in Belgium, France, Denmark, Mexico and Brazil, rose 13% and Nicabate is the number one smoking cessation product in Australia and New Zealand.

As for the marketing and advertising budgets for stop smoking products, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) considers this type of information proprietary and therefore does not disclose it.

Q2. The gum was the first NRT to be distributed. Then came the patch, then the inhaler and there is also a spray? What makes this new gum significantly different from the other products? What does it offer that the others don't?

L A: Nicorette Orange isn't a new nicotine gum, but rather a new flavor option for smokers who want to quit with help from Nicorette. Recent studies have shown that wider availability and access to over-the-counter stop smoking products have increased the number of treatment-assisted quit attempts. In fact, research has demonstrated that an additional quarter of a million U.S. smokers successfully quit smoking in the first year that stop smoking products were made available over-the-counter. GSK offers a variety of quit smoking products, including original Nicorette nicotine gum, Nicorette Mint, as well as the NicoDerm CQ nicotine patch and Clear NicoDerm CQ. Hundreds and thousands of smokers have used these products to quit successfully. By providing a new flavor of nicotine gum like Nicorette Orange, we want to give smokers another tool that will hopefully encourage them to try and quit.

Q3. Some people feel NRT products are expensive, too expensive. Is that so? Could prices go down? You are aware of the controversy about drug prices being much higher in the U.S. Is that the case for NRT? How much will the orange gum cost and how will it compare with the other gums and patches?

L A: For 12 weeks of therapy, Nicorette costs about the same as smoking 1 packs of cigarettes a day. More importantly, NRT products such as Nicorette and NicoDerm CQ do not contain the harmful carbon monoxide, tars and other chemicals in cigarettes that cause death and smoking-related diseases.

Depending on the retailer, the Nicorette Orange starter kit, which contains 108 pieces (approximately two weeks of initial therapy) costs about $50. The refill, containing 48 pieces (approximately one week of therapy) costs about $30, the same as original Nicorette and Nicorette Mint.

Q4. WHO has in Europe a partnership with several pharmaceutical companies to promote cessation campaigns. Could such a common project exist in the US? Do you have partnerships with states in the US that have active tobacco control campaigns promoting cessation?

L A: Treatment marketers, both individually and collaboratively, have continued to pursue involvement with the broader tobacco control community. Their involvement has ranged from establishing and supporting tobacco control programs, to conducting and disseminating primary research. Most recently, at the 11th World Conference on Tobacco OR Health in Chicago, several major pharmaceutical companies, including GSK, united to support a variety of initiatives in the hopes of advancing the important role of smoking cessation treatment in the U.S. and international tobacco control policy. These initiatives include a scholarship program to support training in tobacco control, the WHO European Partnership on Tobacco Dependence, a public service announcement (PSA) campaign and a treatment database, which will house a comprehensive library of tobacco-related resources.

In the United States, GSK has formed a partnership with the American Cancer Society to educate the public about the dangers of tobacco use. Through the partnership, GSK and the American Cancer Society have developed and expanded upon current campaigns to better inform smokers about the process of quitting. Among the collaborative efforts undertaken by GSK and the American Cancer Society is the Great American Smokeout, an event established designed to encourage smokers to quit for a day, and hopefully for a lifetime.

Additionally, GSK is a founding member of The Coalition for World No Tobacco Day, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness about World No Tobacco Day in the United States. Established by the World Health Organization in 1988 and observed annually on May 31st, World No Tobacco Day is the only event that gives smokers around the world the opportunity to unite and halt tobacco use.

Q5. NRT claims that its objective is to help people quit smoking. It seems some smokers rather use NRT products to reduce/control their habit but not for quitting. Air France offering gums or patches to their customers would be a case of such use. Do you have any info about this type of use (for reducing but not quitting)? Are there different types of users? Are some products more/less for quitting than others?

L A: Nicorette and NicoDerm CQ are designed specifically to help control nicotine cravings during the quitting process. GSK recommends that Nicorette and NicoDerm CQ not be used as a temporary substitute when smoking is prohibited. GSK further recommends that users who have completed the recommended course of therapy (12 weeks for Nicorette, 10 weeks for NicoDerm CQ) stop using the product and consult a physician if they still feel the need to continue using NRT.

People who smoke at regular intervals and want once-a-day convenience are recommended to try and quit with the NicoDerm CQ nicotine patch. Those who have smoked at irregular intervals and during their quit attempt, want to control how much nicotine they use and when they use it, should use Nicorette nicotine gum. Nicorette also is for smokers who want something to chew or to want to occupy their hands as they try to quit.

There are vast differences between smokers. Therefore, an effective smoking cessation program must offer flexibility and appeal to many "smoking styles."

Both Nicorette and NicoDerm CQ offer individualized programs that allow users to gradually reduce the amount of nicotine. Tapering nicotine levels is an important component of Nicorette and NicoDerm CQ because it enables smokers to slowly decrease their dependence on nicotine while quitting: a method preferred by physicians. Each person needs to find a plan that works best for him/her.

NicoDerm CQ patch and Nicorette gum users can enroll, free of charge, in Committed Quitters, a clinically proven, customized psychological support program designed to provide the benefits of behavior modification classes through convenient materials that are available either online or through regular mail. Studies have shown that combining NRT with a behavioral support program like Committed Quitters can improve chances of quitting successfully by up to 50% versus using NRT alone.

PB: Thank you Leslie for taking the time to be with us today.

NOTA: This interview was facilitated by Carisa Strauss of Porter and Novelli. If you have any questions about the views expressed by Leslie Ashburn, questions can be forwarded via Carisa at

Rendez-vous is supported by a contract from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
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