The COVID-19 caseload in the country seeming a bit more manageable now with new cases emerging per day hovering at around 20,000. However, this has also meant medications for non-COVID ailments are now also beginning to show a rise. It is being described as a trend towards normalisation of disease pattern.
The past 18 months that forced people into social isolation and to home food and home remedies saw fewer people complaining of cold, cough and gastro-intestinal problems. This falls in what the pharma market calls the acute therapy market – drugs that are taken to treat short-term ailments like fever, cold and cough. The other segment is chronic therapy – these are drugs that need to be taken life-long like those for hypertension of diabetes. The chronic therapy segment continues to show growth even during the peak pandemic months albeit at a reduced pace because doctor visits reduced and some medications took a backseat. Now, according to data for the month of August from AWACS a market research entity that tracks the Indian pharma market’s retail sales, sales in acute therapies have also picked up. For instance, the segments of anti-infectives, which saw a de-growth same time last year, have in August posted a 29.2 per cent growth and if the sales on account of COVID-related prescriptions are excluded then still the growth, according to AWACS data, the growth rate was at 16.5 per cent.
Similarly, for the gastro intestinal segment, the growth was 21.9 per cent and if here also the impact of sales due to co-prescriptions along with COVID are removed, the growth is still at 16.8 per cent. Sheetal Sapale, president, marketing at AWACS says, ‘’while certain key therapy areas (anti-infectives and gastro intestinal) have continued to show robust growth in August, if we remove the COVID impact even then the rest of the portfolio has also picked up.’’ This, she reads as ‘’a trend towards normalisation of disease pattern.’’ The growth in these segments are in tune with the Indian pharma market sales that overall posted a growth of 17.7 per cent during August (as against a degrowth last year same time) and without the impact of COVID-related prescriptions, a growth of 12.8 per cent. Some of the companies that stand to gain from this pick up in acute therapy segment growth in sales are companies like Sun Pharma and Mankind.
However, there are companies that were heavy on COVID-related drug prescriptions are seeing a lower growth. For instance, Cipla, an Indian pharma giant that has the largest COVID-related drug portfolio though for the company as whole the share of COVID related medications in overall sales of the company still at less than 5 per cent (though higher in its India revenues). Cipla, as per the AWACS data, posted a 12.6 per cent growth overall in August but without the COVID-related drugs, the growth would be a single digit at 9.2 per cent. A senior official at Cipla, who did not wish to be quoted, said the strategy for growth now would be ‘’to return back to normal with focus on some of the core therapy strengths of the company in areas like medications for respiratory, cardiac, diabetes and some acute therapies.’’
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