Covid-19 lockdown: After April shock, drug sales improve in May

On the whole, the industry feels two factors have played a role in improving the offtake and reducing trade inventory — one is that the supply chain in pharmaceuticals has more or less stabilised, and secondly, with lockdown curbs easing and OPDs ope
Drug inventory in the market shrank in the first two weeks of May, indicating that sales had picked up after a dull and lockdown-hit April.

At an industry level, the inventory (which is calculated in terms of number of days of stock lying with trade) reduced marginally, but some therapy areas have seen a sharp fall. Industry insiders say this is the result of pent up demand in these therapy areas like gynaecology, oncology, ophthalmology, vitamins, and vaccines.

Data from the market research firm AIOCD AWACS shows that till May 15 the overall inventory in the Indian pharma market (IPM) was 39 days, compared to 43 days in the first half of April. The IPM as such has dipped by about 5 per cent on a month-on-month basis.

However, some therapy areas have seen a sharp fall in inventory, indicating a faster offtake. For example, gynaecological drugs have seen a fall from 58 days of inventory lying with traders to 46 days in May so far. Similarly, for vaccines, the inventory has reduced to 39 days from 62 days in mid-April, indicating that catch-up immunisation has started.

“Gradually, the out-patient departments (OPDs) have opened and many paediatricians have started catch-up vaccinations for children who missed out on their scheduled shots,” said a senior official of a multinational pharma player.

On the whole, the industry feels two factors have played a role in improving the offtake and reducing trade inventory — one is that the supply chain in pharmaceuticals has more or less stabilised, and secondly, with lockdown curbs easing and OPDs opening, some demand has grown at the consumer end as well.

“April was hit by the lockdown and also the supply chain was affected. With the supply chain stabilising now in May, we can see that trade inventories are going down. This is indeed a good sign,” said a spokesperson for Glenmark.

At end of March, and in the first half of April, the supply chain was hit — be it in terms from drugs reaching from the plant to the distributor and then from the distributor to the retailer. On top of that, there was panic buying by consumers for chronic medicines like diabetes and cardiac ailments, which also created a shortage-like situation.

April did not see much panic buying and logistics stabilised during this period. However, some firms highlighted that on a year-on-year basis, the numbers don’t look good yet.

Pranabh Mody, president of JB Chemicals, said if we compare with last May, the market has come down quite a bit. “Labour issues too persist, but are slowly improving,” he said.

Pharma industry insiders claimed that historically, May is usually a weak-sales month. “It is not the flu season and usually only sales of anti-fungal drugs (dermatology category) are high. This year, however, with people staying indoors, the sales of anti-fungals have been hit,” said a senior official of a Mumbai-based company that sells some leading dermatology topical brands in the market.

 


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