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Suffering from dry mouth? Come to the Oasis

A Cleveland startup backed by local investors and doctors is looking to push into the consumer health products market, starting with a spray and rinse intended to combat dry mouth. Earlier this year, Oasis Consumer Healthcare bought the rights to its first product, also called Oasis, from Cleveland-based Gebauer Company.

A Cleveland startup backed by local investors and medical professionals is looking to push into the consumer health products market, starting with a spray and rinse intended to combat dry mouth.

Earlier this year, Oasis Consumer Healthcare bought the rights to its first product, also called Oasis, from Cleveland-based Gebauer Company. The company views the Oasis product as an ideal “platform technology,” and hopes its connections in the health industry will help it more rapidly conduct research and development and testing of new formulations, said Afif Ghannoum, a Cleveland attorney and one of the company’s principals. (Another principal is Ghannoum’s father, Mahmoud, a professor in Case Western Reserve University’s Department of Dermatology. Ghannoum declined to reveal the company’s other backers.)

But if some the company’s investors have strong clinical backgrounds, why not set their sights on developing the next blockbuster prescription drug or breakthrough medical device? In a word — speed.

Oasis simply didn’t want to deal with the years and millions of dollars it often takes to get a new product through the Food and Drug Administration’s lengthy review process, Ghannoum said. “We were really attracted by the fact that when you’re dealing with the [over-the-counter] market, the lead time and the process is significantly truncated,” he said.

While Ghannoum’s investment group has built up years of expertise in the medical industry, it lacked consumer products experience. That’s where CEO Brian Sokol comes in. Sokol previously worked as an executive with Blue Coral, a car-care products brand.

“He’s done everything from sell products through ‘As seen on TV’ to dealing with the largest retailers in the country, and everything in between,” Ghannoum said.

The Oasis product has been on the market for a few years, but the new ownership group hopes to boost sales by expanding its distribution and beefing up marketing, Ghannoum said.

While the Oasis wash and spray already is sold by retailers like Rite Aid and Walgreen’s, among Sokol’s initial challenges will be to get the products into mega-retailers like Wal-Mart and Target. Oasis also is looking to expand into other geographic markets, since its products now are sold only in the United States, Ghannoum said.

In addition, March looms as the target date for the introduction of the first product that’ll test the company’s “platform technology” gambit. Oasis plans to release a reformulated version of its mouthwash, but the new version will be aimed at consumers over the age of 50. The new product’s working title is “Oasis Silver.”

After that, the company hopes to expand into other areas of consumer health through more acquisitions, though Ghannoum was hesitant to get into specific plans. “It could be the best technology in the world, but if we’re not able to add value and efficiencies, then it’s probably not a good fit for us,” he said.