SynopsisData from the All India Organisation of Chemists & Druggists (AIOCD) showed that in the June 2020-May 2021 period, Indians bought Rs 1,220 crore of antiviral drug Favipiravir and Rs 833 crore of Remdesivir. Sales of antibiotic Azithromycin stood at Rs 992 crore, 38% higher on-year. Sales of Doxycycline almost tripled to Rs 85 crore. Sales of anti-parasitic drug Ivermectin surged over 10 times to Rs 237 crore.
Indians bought nearly Rs 15,000-crore of vitamin supplements and other immunity boosters in the twelve months to May, up about a fifth from the same period the preceding year, as sales of drugs related directly or indirectly to Covid-19 treatment surged. Prescription antivirals and antibiotics, such as Favipiravir, Remdesivir and Azithromycin, were also in demand.
Data from the All India Organisation of Chemists & Druggists (AIOCD) showed that in the June 2020-May 2021 period, Indians bought Rs 1,220 crore of antiviral drug Favipiravir and Rs 833 crore of Remdesivir. Sales of antibiotic Azithromycin stood at Rs 992 crore, 38% higher on-year. Sales of Doxycycline almost tripled to Rs 85 crore. Sales of anti-parasitic drug Ivermectin surged over 10 times to Rs 237 crore.
Indians also bought immunity-boosting vitamin drugs and mineral supplements worth Rs 14,587 crore, about 20% more than in the preceding year. Sales of vitamin D alone stood at Rs 817 crore, about 40% higher. Zinc supplements sold nearly three times more at Rs 183 crore.
Direct Dispatches not Included
Sales of plain vitamin C on the other hand nearly quadrupled to Rs 340 crore.
To be sure, sales of these categories of drugs could be even higher as AIOCD data do not include company dispatches directly to large hospitals or institutions.
“AIOCD sources data from stockists. Thus, sales of drugs that pharma companies directly sell to the hospitals and other institutions may not get captured in the AIOCD data,” said Krishnanath Munde, Associate Director, India Ratings and Research.
Multivitamins were in demand because of their immunity booster properties, said Sheetal Sapale, President – Marketing, AIOCD AWACS. Antivirals Favipiravir and Remdesivir were also in high demand through the second wave because of their direct role in Covid treatment.
Antibacterials such as Doxycycline and Azithromycin and anti-parasitic agents such as Ivermectin reported increased demand due to infections triggered by compromised immunity, said Sapale.
Medicines are largely an out-of-pocket expense item for Indians, and the share of wellness and prescription drugs in total expenses increased for the average household since the onset of the pandemic.
For several companies that rolled out such products on time, sales through the period under review were robust. Glenmark Pharma, the first to introduce Favipirvir in India in June last year, earned Rs 975 crore until May, accounting for four-fifths of the drug’s total sales in the country until last month. Glenmark’s domestic sales stood at Rs 3,536 crore for FY21.
Cipla and Cadila Healthcare earned Rs 309 crore and Rs 215 crore, respectively, from Remdesivir sales. Similarly, sales of leading vitamin and minerals supplement brand Zincovit of Apex Labs nearly tripled to Rs 585 crore. Limcee, a vitamin C supplement marketed by Abbott Healthcare, saw its sales quadruple to Rs 192 crore.
Vitamin D brand Uprise D3 of Alkem Labs almost doubled its sales from Rs 72 crore to Rs 132 crore. Multivitamin brands A to Z grew 58% and Supradyn 76%. Health supplement brands Revital and Protinex witnessed on-year jumps of 52% and 64%, respectively.
Incidentally, the latest Director General of Health Services (DGHS) guidelines published late last month have dropped Favipiravir, Ivermectin, Azithromycin, Doxycycline and Hydroxychloroquine from the list of drugs to be directly used in Covid treatment. Zinc supplements and multivitamins, too, do not find mention in the guidelines. Also, the use of Remdesivir and Tocilizumab has been restricted to select cases.
Still, experts believe that would not immediately change prescription patterns.
“Lancet or health ministry guidelines do not get widely read and it becomes difficult for physicians to delete these drugs from their prescriptions after it has developed into a deep-rooted ritual,” said Dr SP Kalantri, Director and Professor of Medicine, Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences.