RENOVA: J&J’S NEW WRINKLE
Byline: Pete Born
NEW YORK — With the unveiling this week of its latest skin care product, Renova, Johnson & Johnson continues to emerge as a key player in the global treatment market.
Jerry Ostrow, a company group chairman, estimated that J&J is positioned to be the largest skin care company in the world, once all of its far-flung subsidiaries are added up. In the past few years, J&J has made some key acquisitions, including the purchase of French skin care company RoC in 1993 and the Los Angeles-based Neutrogena in 1994.
J&J has the Pizbuin line of sun care products from its Swiss subsidiary, Greiter; Sundown protection products and Purpose moisturizers in the U.S.
Bill Cordivari, vice president and general manager of the dermatological division of Ortho Pharmaceutical Corp., estimated that J&J’s global skin care sales exceed $1 billion annually.
The latest addition is Renova, which J&J bills as the first prescription-strength skin care cream to reduce fine facial wrinkles, ease brown spots and smooth rough skin with a set of claims that can be proven. Since Renova is a pharmaceutical product requiring a doctor’s prescription, the product had to be thoroughly tested to win approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which took more than six years to obtain and was granted a week ago.
The product will be distributed to about 65,000 pharmacies in mid-February, Cordivari said during a press briefing here Wednesday.
He declined to make a sales projection. But Cordivari alluded to J&J’s experience with Retin A, an anti-acne product for teenagers that was launched in 1971. That product now generates a U.S. wholesale volume of more than $100 million.
Since Renova was designed for use with a skin care product and sun protector with an SPF of 15, J&J’s Neutrogena subsidiary is planning to market a line of non-prescription products, such as moisturizers, sunscreens, cleansers and toners.
Ostrow indicated that the Neutrogena products could be introduced this year. “We’re talking about a matter of months,” he said, noting that Neutrogena already has a full assortment of other products. “It’s a question of us putting together a merchandising program.”
Several years ago, Elizabeth Arden was interested in marketing the companion line, but FDA approval took longer than expected to obtain, Ostrow noted, and the project lapsed.
The product has already been approved by the governments of the UK and Canada, where it is already available. It has been on the market in Argentina since 1992, according to the company. J&J is awaiting approval in France, Portugal, Spain, Austria, New Zealand, Thailand, Brazil and Mexico.
The company is preparing to submit Renova for approval in Belgium, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland.
Renova uses the same active ingredient as Retin A, a derivative of vitamin A, called tretinoin, which occurs naturally in the body.
But Retin A was designed as a drying product to fight acne in teenagers with oily skin. Renova is an emollient cream intended for women age to 30 to 50, many of whom have dry skin.
A 40-gram tube of Renova will be priced about $60. Since a tube is expected to last four to six months, the company expects the cost of treatment to average $10 to $15 a month. Since the product will only be available by prescription, J&J plans to promote Renova through its sales force, advertising in medical journals and via direct mail, Cordivari said.
Following the press briefing, James Leyden, a dermatology professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine, said that the tretinoin ingredient works on all layers of the skin, including the epidermis, where pigmentation changes occur, and even in lower layers, where fine wrinkling begins. The ingredient corrects the abnormal growth of skin cells by influencing cell differentiation, he said.
Renova differs from the most popular skin care products on the market, alpha hydroxy acids, in that those creams work on the top layer of skin to loosen dead cells and expose new skin.
During crucial tests in a 48-week period of 1977 and 1978, 315 people, aged 30 to 50, tried the product in conjunction with a skin cream and regimen of protection from the sun, according to J&J. There were signs of skin improvement in 78 percent of cases. Also, 64 percent showed improvement in fine wrinkling, 65 percent showed reduction in brown spots and 51 percent exhibited a smoothing of rough skin.
These results are better than those of a control group, people who used a placebo skin cream, plus a skin care and sun avoidance program: 38 percent showed improvement in fine wrinkles, 48 percent had a lessening of brown spots and 33 percent had a smoothing of rough spots.
Leyden said patients notice some improvement within a month — usually a smoothing of wrinkles — but it takes up to six months for maximum results.
Side effects are temporary, Leyden said, sometimes consisting of redness, drying, itching, peeling or a slight burning or tingling sensation. Use of sunscreen is needed because the product may make some people more susceptible to sun damage.
Leyden added that the product does not help deep wrinkling, skin yellowing, skin looseness, prominent blood vessels or large areas of pigmentation.