Covid-19 crisis: Drug sales in May down 9%, fiscal growth to be flat

Medicines are essentials, and sales hardly see any impact even during an economic slowdown. However, the outbreak has hit fresh prescription.
Drug sales in the domestic market continue to be impacted, with the pandemic showing no signs of slowing down. Chronic therapies such as cardiac and anti-diabetics saw marginal growth in May, indicating the slowdown may be more deep-rooted.


Market research firm AIOCD AWACS has predicted zero growth in the domestic market this financial year. Medicines are essentials, and sales hardly see any impact even during an economic slowdown. However, the outbreak has hit fresh prescription. This has, in turn, dampened sales. Overall pharma market growth was down 8.9 per cent in May.


Anti-diabetic and cardiac medicines are part of chronic therapy taken by patients regularly, because of which sales hardly decline. In May, according to data from AIOCD AWACS, cardiac drugs registered growth of 3.9 per cent (against 5.9 per cent in April), with anti-diabetics posting growth of just 1.1 per cent (compared to 6.4 per cent in April).


While the world is experiencing a respiratory virus outbreak, sales of respiratory medicines (comprising inhalers, among others) clocked a decline in sales during May — falling 5.9 per cent against a marginal 0.3 per cent dip in April.


The category, therefore, continued its downward trend. Ameesh Masurekar, director of AIOCD AWACS, feels people have taken precautions because of Covid. “People have stayed indoors due to the lockdown, which has reduced asthma episodes. Seasonal cough and cold infections have also been significantly less,” he added. Other therapies such as anti-infectives (-20.8 per cent), gastrointestinal (-12.8 per cent), vitamins (-9.1 per cent), and pain and analgesics (-17.2 per cent) also continued to decline.

AIOCD AWACS said: “The Covid crisis has impacted the IPM (Indian pharmaceutical market), which continued to show negative growth in May. While there was evidence of revival in some therapies, the (overall) IPM continued a negative growth trend at 8.9 per cent in May,” said the firm. He added that in FY21, IPM growth would be zero — price growth would remain constant at 5 per cent — while volumes and new introduction growth would be in negative terrain (-5 per cent), subsequently pulling down overall growth.


Masurekar explained that both the cardiac and diabetic segments saw panic buying in March and early April. Once the panic-buying wave weaned off, sales saw a sharp fall. In June, the industry expects some revival in sales of chronic medicines. On the inventory front, May saw the gap between chronic and acute therapies being bridged. Usual inventory at the month-end is 40-45 days. Chronic inventory at April-end was around 20 days, and above 60 for acute therapies. By May-end, this changed to 30 days for chronic and 50 for acute.


Edelweiss said volumes declined by 14.4 per cent in May, while prices grew 4.3 per cent. New introductions (new brands mostly) rose a meagre 1.3 per cent. Most firms have chosen to launch drugs through online webinars. Firms like Lupin have said the crisis does not change their new product launch plans. In an earlier interaction with Business Standard, CEO Vinita Gupta had said that visits by medical representatives to clinics could normalise by July.


Overall industry growth has been slow in the March-May period — IPM growth declining by 3.9 per cent .


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