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Tuesday, Jun 6, 2023

Instead of Taking Antacids, Now He’s Making Them

The woman who jumped in front of the ad-wrapped Hummer would have had more wrong with her than a simple case of heartburn had the driver not stopped in time while in a parking lot of a Whole Foods store one day. When that driver, 38-year-old Ryan Doheny, left the parking lot he had won over another user of Axia3, his all-natural antacid advertised on his vehicle. Not just a happy user either after the woman was given a free six-month supply. “She started dancing around she was so happy,” Doheny said. The path that brought Doheny to that Whole Foods was not an easy one. The former commercial real estate broker was not deterred by financial setbacks brought on when problems developed with first the liquid form of Axia3 (bad taste) and then the powder form (moisture caused the packaging to explode). Doheny is the fifth generation of the Doheny family, one of the pioneering families of Los Angeles. Now available in tablets for almost a year, Doheny distributes the antacid through major retail chains like Whole Foods in Southern California, nationwide at GNC and online through drugstore.com. He has an office of sorts in North Hollywood but spends a lot of time in the Hummer personally delivering his “heartburn extinguisher” to retail outlets. If the old saw about necessity being the mother of invention is true, then Doheny had a real necessity. He is among the estimated 60 million Americans who have recurring heartburn. A particularly bad case one night more than five years ago led him to develop Axia3. The heartburn was so bad that Doheny resorted to taking baking soda because it neutralizes stomach acid. The taste, however, could be summed up in one word: blech. Doheny worked up the first batch of antacid with a friend who is a gastroenterologist and then got a chemist to mask the brackish taste of sodium bicarbonate. Digestive enzymes were added to break down fats, carbohydrates and proteins in the digestive system. The first run of the liquid form of Axia3 in 2004 was fine but the second run had a bad taste and as a result, Doheny lost $150,000 and was set back for about a year in getting the product out to consumers. The antacid next took on a powder form but when moisture got into the packets causing them to explode the pricetag was about $100,000 and another setback, this time of six more months. The third incarnation of Axia3 was the chewable tablets that became available last November. The formula is licensed from a third party but by adding a digestive enzyme and advertising the tablet as a combination antacid and breath mint it qualifies for a separate patent that remains pending. The liquid and powder forms were not right for Axia 3, while the chewable tablet form has multiple advantages, said Mike Keller, an investor who has supported Doheny from the start. “It is easy to take and the process is easier from a manufacturing standpoint,” Keller said. Keller was so confident in Doheny and his product that he brought in another investor to put money into the company. Doheny has used his own money and other investors as funding sources. Had Axia3 started out in the chewable tablet form, Doheny believes his product would be the number three antacid on the market. So now he tries to take away market share from over-the-counter competitors Rolaids and Tums. By proclaiming the antacid as the “heartburn extinguisher” in large letters on the packaging, shoppers are made aware up front just what they are getting. The description is much less scientific-sounding than Pepcid AC, or prescription medications Prilosec and Nexium. Not having a huge advertising and marketing budget, other methods are used to get Axia3 into the public eye. Take, for instance, a partnership with the International Federation of Competitive Eating to sponsor the Coney Island Hot Dog Eating Contest and a 2006 turkey eating contest.

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

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