Celebrate good rains but watch out for monsoon-related infections

 E Kumar Sharma        Last Updated: August 17, 2016  | 19:25 IST

E Kumar Sharma, Associate Editor, Business Today
After two long years, Indian farmers are finally seeing a good monsoon, though this will impact their cash flows only by October-November.

However, there are worries too - a spike in bacterial and microbial infections due to rains. We are into the season of monsoon-related infections that goes on till early winter. It is best to stay away from mosquitoes and contaminated water. Typically, viral fever should last for four-seven days. If it lasts beyond that, tests must be done to rule out dengue or chikungunya, both spread by mosquito bite.

Viral fever is worrisome. It is, therefore, not surprising that the market for paracetamol, used to control fever, is valued at Rs 786 crore, according to AIOCD AWACS, a pharmaceutical market research entity. What is more, going by the figures for the past 12 months, it has been growing at about 23  per cent a year. The market for 650-mg tablets, valued at Rs 179.2 crore, is the biggest; the 250-mg tablets have a Rs 152.9-crore market.

In fact, Calpol, a leading paracetamol brand of GlaxoSmithKline, alone is said to be valued over Rs 200 crore. But then, it is not paracetamol alone (around Rs 2 a tablet in some cases) that doctors prescribe. In cases where people also have a bacterial infection, they also prescribe antibiotics. Some newer antibiotics cost around Rs 46 a tablet for 500 mg and around Rs 26 for 250 mg tablet despite a price control regime. Besides these, to help patients deal with the impact of heavy dose of latest antibiotics and paracetamol, doctors prescribe more tablets, some of which cost as much as Rs 8 per tablet.

This could be a big problem if the patient is a farmer. Typically, health-related costs are the second or third biggest cause for indebtedness among farmers after expenses for social functions like children's marriage and loans for farming.

Despite access to low-cost finance with options like kisan credit cards, these infections could be a worry for farmers, as the jury is still out on how exactly the good monsoon would translate into higher incomes. This is because higher output can imply lower prices, which in turn could dim chances of a substantial increase in farm incomes.

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