What ails India's pharma sector? Brand launches last year lowest since 2013

The last year witnessed the lowest number of brand launches in domestic pharmaceutical industry since 2013, with the growth rate of this sector slowing down to 5.5 per cent from 10.6 per cent in 2016.

Around 3,932 pharma brands were launched in the Indian pharmaceutical market (IPM) — the dermatology segment leading with 386 brand launches — as firms focussed on the over-the-counter (OTC) segment. 
While 2016 had 4,516 brand launches in the domestic market,  2013 had seen 3,751 brand introductions. 
The domestic pharmaceutical industry growth rate was the lowest in eight years as the business was impacted by roll out of the goods and services tax (GST) regime and also delayed product approvals by the National Pharma Pricing Authority (NPPA). 
D G Shah, secretary general of the Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance (IPA), which represents large Indian drug makers such as Sun Pharma, Dr Reddy’s and Cipla, said: “New initiatives contribute around two-third of the growth rate of the market. This year the new initiatives were low as the NPPA approvals were not coming in and there were around 200 applications pending with them.” 
As per data from market research firm AIOCD AWACS, the leading therapy segments in terms of brand launches were dermatology, anti-infectives, cardiology, gastroenterology and others. 
Vaccines (18.2 per cent), dermatology (12.3 per cent), anti-diabetics (14 per cent) and sex stimulants (10.4 per cent) are some of the fastest growing categories in 2017. Anti-diabetics has been a leading therapy for around five years, consistently clocking double digit growth rates and peaking in 2015 at 23.8 per cent. 
As drug firms enhance their focus on OTC medicines, categories like dermatology, vitamins, pain and analgesics have been featuring in the key therapy areas that are witnessing the most number of drug launches. As per Nicholas Hall 2017 report , the Indian OTC market is expected to grow at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of nine per cent to cross the $6.5-billion (Rs 441.1 billion) mark by 2026.
Only recently, India’s second largest pharma major Lupin forayed into the OTC segment when it re-launched its 34-year old legacy brand Softovac (constipation and irregular bowel habits medication) as an OTC product. 
In November last year, Ahmedabad-based Torrent Pharma acquired Unichem Lab’s India business, which has popular OTC brands like Unienzyme. Nandini Piramal-led consumer products division of Piramal Enterprises too acquired Digeplex, a gastro-intestinal brand from Shreya Lifesciences recently. Piramal’s consumer arm acquired four OTC brands from Pfizer last year. 
Analysts said a renewed focus on the OTC segment stems from the sluggish prescription growth.  
Segments that have slipped into negative territory in terms of growth (value) in 2017 are anti-malarials (-21.9 per cent) and anti-infectives (-2.6 per cent). Cardiology therapy growth rate too slowed down in 2017 (6.7 per cent) — it was clocking double-digit growth rates for the past few years. Growth in the respiratory segment also has been slowing — from a 13.6 per cent growth rate in 2015 to 3.2 per cent in 2017. 

Business Standard is now on Telegram.
For insightful reports and views on business, markets, politics and other issues, subscribe to our official Telegram channel