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People still avoiding hospitals for common illness, popping more vitamin pills

Joe C Mathew     August 11, 2020

The scare of COVID-19 pandemic continues to keep Indians away from hospitals and doctors for treatment of common ailments as much as possible, the slow pick-up in the sales of commonly prescribed medicines shows. Instead, they are popping more vitamin pills, the medicine sales data for July, published by AIOCD AWACS, a pharmaceutical market research organisation shows.

The COVID crisis has impacted the Indian pharmaceutical market which grew just 0.2 per cent in July, even lower than the 2.4 per cent growth registered during June, the data showed. While anti-infectives showed a negative growth of 10.2 per cent in July (-9.7% in June), its associated gastro therapy sales declined 2.4 per cent in July as against a growth of 0.4 per cent the previous month.  Pain and Analgesics segments were at  -6.7 per cent in July, worse than -1.9 per cent in June. Respiratory medicines growth slumped 2 per cent in July compared to 4.2 per cent jump in June. At the same time, vitamins  sales grew 5.5 per cent in July (5.7 per cent in June).  

The sales of medicines for chronic illnesses, however, continue to show growth. Cardiac medicines, for instance, registered a monthly growth of 13.1 per cent in July. The growth was more or less the same, 13.9 per cent, in June also. Anti-Diabetic medicine segment also registered growth of 5.9 per cent in July, though it was lower than that in June, which recorded 8.5 per cent growth.

Commenting on the performance of the domestic pharmaceutical market, broking firm Anand Rathi Research said that the market is in a consolidation phase after entering positive growth territory in June. "The growth trend in sales of chronic therapeutic category medicines outpacing acute therapies continued for yet another month and cardio (up 13 per cent) has now surpassed anti-infectives (down 10 per cent) to become the largest therapy in the Indian Pharmaceutical market (IPM)," an investor note by Anand Rathi said. "Industry volumes declined 7 per cent, while the prices rose 5 per cent and new product launches aided 2 per cent growth during the month."

According to the investor note, the decline in IPM growth has now been largely arrested due to strong performance of chronic therapies. "The industry is now in a phase of consolidation as volumes are expected to rebound once hospitals began to operate normally. The domestic pharma market in FY21 is expected to grow in single digits despite a muted performance in the first four months," the note said.

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