Little, yellow, different. Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. once used those three words to advertise its pain reliever Nuprin. But by 2002, another word seemed more apt — vanished. The pharmaceutical company stopped selling its ibuprofen product, tired of trying to outspend competitors Wyeth (which markets Advil) and Bayer AG (Motrin).

Bristol-Myers’s trash was Paul Earle Jr.’s treasure. Earle and his five-employee company, RiverWestBrands, operate as a sort of dead-brand thrift store, buying and selling (or licensing) discarded trademark portfolios. In late 2002 Earle approached Bristol-Myers about Nuprin, and a year later RiverWest bought the rights to the drug’s name. But Earle’s buy was risky. In the highly competitive over-the-counter pain medication market, an also-ran ibuprofen product seemed like a loser. Advil and Motrin are like the Coke and Pepsi of the ibuprofen market. Nuprin was more like RC Cola. But Earle saw Nuprin’s potential as a drugstore-owned line of medicine, and he convinced CVS to buy Nuprin in 2004. The national drugstore chain priced Nuprin at a midpoint between generic ibuprofen and other name-brand products. Consumers who want to save money and buy a trustworthy brand name would have a new choice. Today CVS uses the Nuprin label on more than 12 health products, including decongestant spray, arthritis patches, and muscle and joint cream.

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