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High-Tech Bandages Are Latest Fad

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NEW YORK (AP) _ Cuts and scrapes are as much a part of summer as lemonade and fireflies. When it comes to taking care of life's hard knocks, however, there are definitely two camps: those who cover wounds and those who don't.

Backed by scientific studies, bandage makers are aggressively preaching the advantages of hiding wounds away _ and then providing consumers with new high-tech ways to speed up the healing process and keep the dressings in place.

New wound-care products on the market move consumers far beyond bandages in different shapes, sizes and materials. Instead, the products promise faster healing, and have adapted wound protectors previously seen only in hospital emergency rooms. All for a price.

Manufacturers have stretched what was once a simple adhesive strip into a variety of futuristic remedies. Some _ such as Johnson & Johnson's Liquid Band-Aid, an odorless, clear adhesive, and Curad's Hydro Heal, a water resistant breatheable gel that can be worn for several days _ speak to the need to keep injuries covered and moist in order to improve the healing process. Others such as 3M/Nexcare's Ease-Off are aimed at solving problems consumers have with bandages. Ease-Off has a pull-up tab and a special adhesive that help make the product easier to remove.

Consumers have been frustrated with bandages. Often, they switch from one brand to another, looking to solve the problems they had with the last brand. The most common complaint: ``They didn't stick.''

When it comes to Johnson & Johnson's Band-Aid, ``different people have different needs,'' spokeswoman Sarah Colamarino says. ``Our innovation is driven by looking at consumer need gaps, and developing innovation that fits these gaps.''

Liquid Band-Aid, which was just launched this spring, attempts to protect wounds in areas, such as hands, that are hard to bandage. Consumers mix the adhesive with an activator to make a sterile, liquid bandage that doesn't peel or rub off before the wound heals.

Although the product isn't the first liquid bandage to hit the market, it is the only one that has Food and Drug Administration approval and that burnishes the claim that it is a barrier to infection.

``Traditional bandages cover and protect the wound,'' says Gabe Szabo, director of marketing for consumer products at Closure Medical Corp., the Raleigh, N.C., developer of Dermabond, the leading medical tissue adhesive, as well as Johnson & Johnson's partner for the recently launched Liquid Band-Aid. The newer products ``aid in the healing process, enabling the product to be more than just a commodity.''

Although Closure has studies that demonstrate the quicker healing properties of Liquid Band-Aid compared with both the water-resistant gels and traditional plastic strips, the product's advertising doesn't cite the data.

In fact, TV ads for Liquid Band-Aid aim to be a little sexy. Smart spots created by Interpublic Group's McCann-Erickson, show the new-fangled bandage in place beneath nylon stockings and in situations where a traditional bandage just wouldn't do.

The message may be dead-on for its target audience: women with children.

New Jersey mom Joann Russo says she's heard of Liquid Band-Aid and thought about purchasing it because it would be easier to take with her on family trips to the beach this summer. However, Russo still hasn't tried the product because it's new, and she'd rather wait to hear more about it from someone she knows who has used it.

Like many bandage users, Russo tends to make her purchase decisions in the aisle of the store, usually after she's already realized she's run out of strips at home. She's not loyal to any one brand, and she's always looking for ways to solve the age-old problem: the bandage that falls off.

Some marketing studies have shown that consumers also use price as a deciding factor in purchasing bandages. But the newer high-performance bandages test that premise with prices that are considerably higher than traditional plastic strips.

For example, Liquid Band-Aid's suggested retail price of $7.99 for 10 applications is on par with the water-resistant gels, but is significantly higher than the $2.99 usually paid for about 20 plastic strip bandages.

Szabo doesn't expect price to be an issue with consumers who tend to more aggressively treat their medical symptoms. Those consumers are looking for a product that provides ``active healing'' rather than simply a protection strip, he says.

Another challenge is consumers' preconceptions about treating cuts and scrapes.

``There is a myth that air drying is the proper way to care for your wound,'' says Natalia Hrybowych, assistant product manager for Neosporin, an antibiotic ointment owned by Pfizer Inc. The New York pharmaceutical company recently commissioned a Roper ASW study that showed 75 percent of those surveyed didn't know how to properly treat a wound. According to Hrybowych, wounds should be cleaned, checked for severity and then coated with an antibiotic ointment and covered.
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