Wellcome can sell Zovirax over counter

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The Independent Online
WELLCOME has won approval to sell its highly successful Zovirax anti-herpes product direct to the British public, writes Gail Counsell.

Zovirax is effective against a number of conditions including shingles and genital herpes. But Wellcome will only be allowed to promote it direct to the public for the treatment of cold sores.

The company said yesterday the necessary formalities were expected to be completed shortly and it hoped to have Zovirax Cold Sore Cream available at chemists from mid-July.

Last year total sales of Zovirax were worth around pounds 586m to Wellcome, of which about pounds 70m related to sales for the treatment of cold sores. These were mostly European as the product is not approved for the treatment of cold sores in the US.

'At the moment doctors do not tend to prescribe it for cold sores - probably on grounds of cost,' Nigel Barnes, an analyst with brokers Hoare Govett, said.

'But it is the only really effective product against this virus and the potential demand is considerable. Taking it over the counter could be very big.'

He estimated that sales could triple to more than pounds 200m once the cream was approved for over-the-counter sale throughout Europe.