New Ranking Names America's Cough and Cold Capitals

Cumulative effects of stress, more so than weather, may be to blame

Oct 06, 2004, 01:00 ET from Novartis Consumer Health, Inc.

    PARSIPPANY, N.J., Oct. 6 /PRNewswire/ -- The cold and flu season is just
 around the corner and now a new index from Triaminic(R) and Theraflu(R) Thin
 Strips(TM) names the cities that are buying the most cough and cold medicines.
 The first Thin Strips(TM) Cough and Cold Capitals Index reveals that
 relatively balmy Bakersfield, CA, is the nation's top Cough and Cold Capital
 with residents there reaching for cough and cold medicines 35 percent more
 than the average household, while people in Springfield, MO, the bottom ranked
 city, buy only half the national average.
     However, despite nearly one third of consumers believing that the cold
 weather is one of the main contributing causes of coughs and colds, the Thin
 Strips Cough and Cold Capitals Index indicates that it may not be the climate
 where people live, but the stresses they live with, that make them more likely
 to come down with a cold.  Colder weather climates, such as Minneapolis, MN,
 (ranked 49th), Buffalo, NY, (ranked 80th), and Lincoln, NE, (ranked 101st),
 appear lower in the rankings than many of their fair-weather counterparts,
 such as California's Bakersfield, Monterey, and San Diego, which are all in
 the top 10.
     "The Thin Strips Cough and Cold Capitals Index appears to show that
 despite popular myth, colder weather may have little correlation with the
 onset of colds and flu," says Jack Levin, Ph.D., Professor of Sociology and
 Criminology at Northeastern University, Boston, MA, who synthesized the data.
 "Rather, the cumulative effects of environmental stresses, such as long
 commutes in the car, smog and pollution, population shifts, and unemployment,
 may play a role in weakening our immune system, leaving us more susceptible to
 coughs and colds."
     Dr. Levin studied cough and cold category sales data provided by
 Information Resources, Inc., and then compared numerous economic and
 sociological factors in an effort to better understand the disparities in
 these cities.
     Thin Strips Cough and Cold Capitals Share Key Factors
     The Thin Strips(TM) Cough and Cold Capitals Index shows that most of the
 top cities have a number of common characteristics, from significant shifts in
 population sizes to high unemployment levels.  "Population change is a
 significant factor.  You might think that population loss would be the most
 stressful, because it is usually accompanied by high unemployment," says Dr.
 Levin.  "But those cities that have experienced dramatic population growth
 often experience just as much stress because they have a lot more strangers in
 a community who don't have the necessary support systems in place."
     The top cities tend to have larger than average populations, with seven of
 the largest metropolitan areas appearing in the top 20.  Many of them have
 also seen major population shifts, with 15 of the top 20 cities having
 experienced significant population growth or losses.  Philadelphia, PA, (19th)
 and Washington, DC, (4th) have both seen a double digit population loss of 11
 percent and 15 percent respectively, while the Thin Strips Cough and Cold
 Capital Bakersfield, CA, and 12th-ranked Greensboro, NC, have both experienced
 extreme growth of more than 20 percent.
     Not surprisingly, unemployment ranks higher among the cities at the top of
 the Thin Strips Cough and Cold Capitals Index, with Baltimore, MD, (8th)
 having a jobless rate of 9.13 percent and Washington, DC, (4th) at 7.12
 percent, versus the lower ranked cities of Tulsa, OK, (107th) at 3.86 percent
 and Springfield, MO, (108th) at just 2.85 percent.
     The Thin Strips Cough and Cold Capitals Index also appears to challenge
 some current consumer perceptions about what they think makes them more
 susceptible to coughs and colds.  Recent consumer research conducted on behalf
 of Triaminic(R) and Theraflu(R) Thin Strips(TM) found that 51 percent of
 consumers believe that working closely or commuting with other people makes
 them most likely to catch colds.  However, 14 of the top 20 cities spend
 longer commuting times in their car than the bottom ranked cities.  Residents
 of Miami, FL, (9th) spend around 32 minutes in the car each day, with people
 in Chicago, IL, (16th) spending one minute more, at 33 minutes.  These
 commuting times are nearly double those of some of the bottom ranked cities
 such as Lincoln, NE, (101st) at 18 minutes and Wichita, KS, (102nd) at 19
     Dr. Levin comments, "Conventional wisdom would suggest, for example, that
 people who ride mass transit are more likely to catch a cold.  But our data
 shows that it's the stress of commuting by car, the stress of work and
 unemployment, and the stress of friends and neighbors moving in and out of a
 city that play a more prominent role in making us susceptible to catching a
     Finally, the top five cities of Bakersfield, CA, (1st), Ft. Wayne, IN,
 (2nd), Richmond, VA, (3rd), Washington, DC, (4th), and Norfolk, VA, (5th),
 also share one common environmental characteristic.  Each of these cities
 experience elevated smog and pollution levels, which is known to be
 detrimental to overall long-term health.
     Solutions for a Stress-Less Life
     Dr. Levin concludes, "With today's increasingly mobile lifestyle, it is
 inevitable that most people will suffer from a certain amount of cumulative
 stress at some point in their lives.  How they manage this stress is key and
 some simple changes may make a big difference.  For commuters, this may be
 taking public transportation once in while, or for families on the move,
 trying to build a support system where they live.  Ultimately, minimizing
 everyday stresses may help to reduce our susceptibility to colds and flu."
     Cough-Cold Product Innovation Meets Today's Needs
     Consumer research commissioned by Triaminic(R) and Theraflu(R) Thin
 Strips(TM) reveals that today's consumers are looking for convenient medicines
 that effectively treat the symptoms of coughs and colds and meet the demands
 of their mobile lifestyles.
     According to Jeff Vernimb, vice president, Marketing at Novartis Consumer
 Health, Inc., "Consumers told us that portability was important for themselves
 and their children, leading us to develop Triaminic and Theraflu Thin Strips,
 the first cough and cold multi-symptom treatments in a thin film form.
 They're portable, so you can take them anywhere; they're convenient, there's
 no need for water or measuring; and they're accurate.  One strip melts on the
 tongue to ensure a fast and accurate dose of medicine each time."
     Triaminic Thin Strips, for children ages 6-12, will be available in two
 treatment options: Long Acting Cough (cherry flavor) and Cough & Runny Nose
 (grape flavor), and are priced to retail for approximately $5.99 for a 16-
 strip pack. Theraflu Thin Strips, for adults and children ages 12 and older,
 are also available in two treatment options: Long Acting Cough and Multi
 Symptom (both cherry flavor), and are priced to retail at approximately $5.49
 for a 12-strip pack.
     The Top and Bottom Rankings of the Thin Strips(TM) Cough and Cold Capitals
     City Ranking:        Consumption of Cough and Cold Medicines
                                 vs. National Average:
     1.    Bakersfield, CA                 +35 percent
     2.    Ft. Wayne, IN                   +34 percent
     3.    Richmond - Petersburg, VA       +33 percent
     4.    Washington, DC                  +29 percent
     5.    Norfolk - Portsmouth, VA        +27 percent
     6.    Monterey - Salinas, CA          +26 percent
     7.    Grand Rapids - Kalamazoo, MI    +22 percent
     8.    Baltimore, MD                   +22 percent
     9.    Miami - Fort Lauderdale, FL     +22 percent
     10.   San Diego, CA                   +21 percent
     104.  Huntsville - Decatur, AL        -31 percent
     105.  Paducah - Cape Girardeau, IL    -32 percent
     106.  Tyler - Longview, TX            -33 percent
     107.  Tulsa, OK                       -34 percent
     108.  Springfield, MO                 -51 percent
     Further information and specific data regarding the 108 cities ranked in
 the Thin Strips Cough and Cold Capitals Index is available upon request.
     Methodology - Dr. Levin's Research
     Based on the rankings, the investigator studied 108 metropolitan areas
 around the country.  The household sales of over-the-counter cough and cold
 medicines, combining adult and pediatric, determined the relative position
 (i.e., particular rank) of each area.  For the 20 top (high cough-cold) and 20
 bottom (low cough-cold) areas, the investigator examined U.S. Census Bureau,
 Department of Labor, and Environmental Protection Agency data on percent
 population change (1990-2000), percent Black and Hispanic population, average
 daily commute time (car/public transportation), divorce rate, crime rate,
 average daily temperature during winter months, total annual precipitation,
 degree of pollution, percent population aged 65 and over, region of the U.S.,
 and one-year changes in sales of cough-cold medicines.  For all 108 areas,
 percent population change, average daily commute time, degree of pollution,
 and unemployment rate were calculated.  All relationships were statistically
 tested for significance by means of Spearman's Rank-Order Correlation
 Coefficient or Chi-Square.  Dr. Levin studied the Index, which is based on
 data provided by Information Resources, Inc., and compared numerous economic
 and sociological factors in an effort to better understand the disparities in
 these cities.
     Methodology - Consumer Research
     These results are based upon telephone surveys conducted by Opinion
 Research Corporation among a national probability sample of 2,062 adults 18
 and older living in private households in the continental United States.  A
 total of 558 were the parent or legal guardian of a child under 18 living in
 their household. The survey was conducted September 9-13, 2004.  The margin of
 error is plus or minus two percentage points for results based on the total
 sample and plus or minus four percent for results based on parents.
     Methodology - Information Resources, Inc., Data
     The ranking is based on cough and cold category sales data for food, drug,
 and mass retailers, provided by Information Resources, Inc., for the 26 weeks
 ending March 28th, 2004.
     About Novartis Consumer Health, Inc.
     The OTC business unit of Novartis Consumer Health, Inc., with headquarters
 in Parsippany, New Jersey, is a world leader in the development, production
 and marketing of self-medication products for the in-home treatment and
 prevention of medical conditions and ailments and for the enhancement of
 overall health and well being.  The OTC business unit is part of Novartis AG
 (NYSE:   NVS).
     About Novartis AG
     Novartis AG (NYSE:   NVS) is a world leader in pharmaceuticals and consumer
 health.  In 2003, the Group's businesses achieved sales of USD 24.9 billion
 and a net income of USD 5.0 billion.  The Group invested approximately USD 3.8
 billion in R&D. Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, Novartis Group companies
 employ about 78,500 people and operate in over 140 countries around the world.
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SOURCE Novartis Consumer Health, Inc.