Novartis stages pitch for laxative product

Pharmaceutical giant Novartis is to take on consumer PR support for its laxative brand, Ex-Lax, for the first time.

It is understood that three consumer agencies will pitch to the firm in the coming month, after a brief was issued to several agencies earlier this month. A source at Novartis suggested an agency would be appointed by the end of May.

The product, which falls within the company's consumer health division, is a market-leading product in the US, but enjoys a relatively low profile in the UK.

It is understood that the pitch is being overseen by the product's brand managers within the Novartis marketing department, while the PR work is overseen by the Swiss pharma giant's director of comms Jo Ashton.

Chocolate-flavoured Ex-Lax was reformulated in 1997 to be based on the natural ingredient senna, following an investigation by the American Federal Drug Administration into the product.

Novartis's consumer health division was formed in 1999 to house over-the-counter, medical nutrition, health and functional food products, such as sun-lotion brand Piz Buin, hot drinks Ovaltine and Options, and energy drink Isostar.

Novartis currently retains The Red Consultancy for the bulk of its OTC consumer health work, promoting the Tixylix medicine range, Nicotinell and Savlon, among others (PRWeek, 26 January 2001). The agency also provides corporate PR support to the company, which has retained APCO as its UK public affairs consultancy since last summer (PRWeek, 17 August 2001).

The global head of Novartis's consumer heath division, Al Piergallini, retired at the end of last year after seven years with the firm. The role was filled by Paul Choffat, a former marketing and sales manager with Nestle.

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