Cipla, the market leader in respiratory therapies, expects a surge in demand for respiratory drugs and inhalers during the coming months when the winter and an anticipated second Covid wave are likely to push up demand for these medicines.
The firm enjoys a massive 68.7 per cent market share in the respiratory inhalation segment in India and has started working on aligning supplies so that there is no shortage of these critical medicines.
During this time, pollution levels (especially in north India) and other environmental factors cause a surge in respiratory illnesses. Cipla aspires to become the global lungs leader and it currently ranks second in the world.
People, who are recovering from Covid-19, are also suffering from lung damage and other respiratory illnesses as an after-effect of the illness.
A recent study of 55 people recovering from Covid in China shows that even after three months of leaving the hospital, about 70 per cent of those in the study continued to have abnormal lung scans. The findings in EClinicalMedicine came from a team in Henan province of China led by Aiguo Xu of the first affiliated hospital of Zhengzhou University; Yanfeng Gao, Zhengzhou University; and Hong Luo, Guangshan People’s Hospital.
Speaking to Business Standard, Cipla global chief financial officer (CFO) Kedar Upadhye said the company’s respiratory portfolio, including inhalers and oral drugs, was significant.
“Winters, allergies during this period, pollution and post Covid complications — all these are expected to push up the demand for respiratory medications,” he said. He said the company was getting ready with its stocks and supply chain so that there is no shortage. “The demand is likely to go up and also we have a strong pipeline of respiratory launches in emerging markets that will add to our sales growth,” he said.
Cipla recently launched the third edition of their respiratory illness and inhaler use awareness campaign Berok Zindagi 3.0. The campaign is being run in local languages and people are warming up to the idea that inhalers are safe, Upadhye said.
Cipla's domestic sales have been clocking high double-digit growth in the past few months, thanks to the sales growth in its Covid-19 portfolio — remdesivir (Cipremi), tocilizumab (licensed from Roche), and also favipiravir (Ciplenza). It has supplied over 150,000 patients with these three drugs that are being used by doctors as off-label therapies to treat Covid-19.
The company’s India business grew by 17 per cent year-on-year (YoY) during the September quarter. Of this, the prescription business grew by 14 per cent. Around 95,000 patients were serviced through a 24x7 helpline that the company runs for Covid-19 drugs.
The Covid-19 portfolio is around 5 per cent of its India business now. The company recently ramped up capacities for remdesivir. Upadhye said that demand for tocilizumab is slightly muted now, while demand for remdesivir and favipiravir continue to grow.