With the pandemic raging across the world, the demand for antiviral drugs — especially those used for treating influenza or HIV — have shot up as they are being tested as potential cures for Covid-19.
Data from market research firm AIOCD-AWACS shows that sales of oseltamivir (common brand Tamiflu), used against the influenza virus and also for swine flu, went up by 35.8 per cent in April on a year-on-year (YoY) basis.
Similarly, drugs like tenofovir and its combinations (anti-HIV drugs) have seen significant traction. Domestic sales of the much touted combination of lopinavir and ritonavir grew over 50 per cent in April.
On the whole, the antiviral segment registered a drop of 5.5 per cent on a YoY basis.
On the export front, too, antivirals have remained in demand. Speaking to Business Standard, Uday Bhaskar, the director general of Pharmaceutical Export Promotion Council (Pharmexcil) said demand for antivirals was high as most countries were experimenting with treatment protocol for Covid-19.
Vamsi Krishna Bandi, managing director of the Hetero Group, said they have been supplying the combination of lopinavir and ritonavir to European countries.
Demand for hydroxychloroquine and paracetamol remained high during March and April, said Bhaskar.
Meanwhile, the overall domestic pharma market, too, declined 11.2 per cent YoY in April after growing by almost 9 per cent in March. The prime drag on the market was the drop in sales of acute therapy medicines like antibiotics, apart from dermatological and gynaecological drugs that witnessed sharp falls.
Anti-infectives (which comprise 11 per cent of the domestic market) fell 21.5 per cent, while gynaecological drugs (around 5 per cent of the market) dropped 23 per cent. The dermatology segment (6 per cent of the market) fell 22.5 per cent.
A senior executive with an acute therapy-focused company said people managed to ward off infection by staying indoors. This resulted in a fall in the sale of antibiotics. Segments like dermatology, gynaecology, and vaccines, depend on fresh prescriptions. With the lockdown being in place for the entirety of April, there were hardly any fresh prescriptions from doctors.
“If one compares the Indian pharma market on a month-on-month basis, the fall is much sharper, at around 19 per cent,” the senior executive added. The firm is now actively pursuing doctors through webinars. It is also helping doctors to get on telemedicine platforms to generate prescriptions.
Acute therapy-focused firms like Wockhardt and Alkem Laboratories saw steep declines in April numbers — 26.9 per cent and 16.6 per cent, respectively. Analysts at Motilal Oswal Securities (MOSL) said that for firms like Alkem, sales growth was weighed down by decline in anti-infectives (reduced 20.2 per cent YoY), which form almost 40 per cent of its sales.
While most firms have reported a decline in sales, Mumbai-based JB Chemicals & Pharmaceuticals saw 5 per cent YoY growth in April, riding on the cardiac segment. MOSL analysts said JB Chemicals’ performance was driven by 30.8 per cent YoY growth in the company's cardiac segment. Pranabh Mody, president of JB Chemicals, told Business Standard that it had launched a drug in the segment before the lockdown was imposed through webinars with doctors.
While panic buying had increased sales of cardiac and anti-diabetic segments in March, these did not fare too badly in April either — posting 5.9 per cent and 6.4 per cent YoY growth, respectively. Ipca Laboratories — which produces hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine — posted 35.7 per cent growth in the sales of anti-malarial drugs.