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Flu season starts, but demand for cough-cold meds remains weak

Impact in US among the worst in the past 10 years

Flu | Medicines | United States

Sohini Das  |  Mumbai 

Photo: Shutterstock

Demand in for cough and cold remained weak even as the US witnessed one of the worst beginnings to the season the past decade.

Analysts at Nuvama Research said key findings show five times more illness versus the average of the last five years, eight times more hospital visits, and 3.5 times more deaths this season in the US.

Indian stand to gain as a result of a strong season as they enjoy a one-third share of the total prescription market in Oseltamivir ( medicine) suspension market.

Oseltamivir is the first-line treatment for Influenza A and B. This has been a generic drug since December 2016 (capsules) and December 2017 (suspension) with multiple players.

Analysts say the number of patients and resultant prescriptions has increased in the last two weeks. “Oseltamivir has multiple players, but Indian have a lion’s share — in suspension (one-third of the total prescriptions),” said Nuvama Research.

Natco has a market share of about 36 per cent, while Ajanta Pharma has 25 per cent, Zydus around 16 per cent and Lupin enjoys a 13 per cent market share, the analysts noted. In capsules, Hetero enjoys an 18 per cent share, while Alembic has 17 per cent, Lupin (15 per cent) and Strides enjoys 13 per cent share.

The combined market size (suspension and capsules) is around $300-350 million.

“While the flu season can be unpredictable and peak at different times – in 2017–18 in January after a low-key start, the six-week data of 2022–23 season is not only indicating the highest number of influenza-like-illness, but also a pickup in intensity week-over-week,” the brokerage noted.

On the other hand, cold and flu medication sales in the domestic market remain muted. Data from firm AWACS shows that there has been a 2.4 per cent dip in volume sales of these drugs in October over the previous month.

Sheetal Sapale, president (marketing), AWACS said demand for flu medications are seasonal, and there are no major changes so far this season. “The trend lines are seasonal... and no major aberrations are seen in the seasonal trends,” she said.

Meanwhile, doctors have recommended taking the flu vaccine this season since it not only protects against severe forms of influenza but also severe Covid-19 disease.

Flu season starts, but demand for cough-cold meds remains weak

Vaccine makers, however, said there was hardly any demand for flu vaccines this year in . “The demand is weak,” said a senior executive of a drug firm that makes the vaccine.

A study on more than 30,000 health care workers in Qatar found that those who got a flu jab were nearly 90 per cent less likely to develop severe Covid-19 over the next few months compared to those who had not been vaccinated against flu.

This study was conducted before the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccines, sometime in late 2020, said an article published in Nature in May this year. In fact, researchers found that those who had taken a for that season were 30 per cent less likely to test positive for Sars-CoV-2. The study was posted on the medRxiv preprint server in May.

Doctors in agree on the benefits of the .

Monalisa Sahu, consultant, infectious diseases, Yashoda Hospitals, Hyderabad, said, “According to recent studies, in those seasons when the majority of circulating flu viruses are well-matched with those used for making flu vaccines, the vaccine lowers the chance of getting flu by between 40 per cent and 60 per cent among the general population.”

In general, she adds, modern flu vaccines tend to protect against influenza A (H3N2) viruses less well and perform better against influenza B and influenza A (H1N1) viruses.

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First Published: Fri, December 02 2022. 20:28 IST