Pharma molecules that have seen traction during the last two years of the pandemic are also the fastest growing ones. An analysis of the compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of the top 20 drug molecules in the Indian domestic market showed that paracetamol (pain, fever, analgesic), Azithromycin (common antibiotic), multi-vitamins, and enoxaparin (prevents blood clots) are the drugs that clocked high double digit CAGR over the last five-year period.
Paracetamol, a drug prescribed to almost every Covid-19 patient, has seen a value CAGR of 21.4 percent between 2017 and 2021, showed data from Elara Securities Research. Similarly, Enoxaparin, a drug used to prevent blood clots (also widely used during Covid19) has clocked a 21.8 percent CAGR during the same period. Azithromycin, a common antibiotic usually prescribed for throat infections, and used widely to treat Covid-19 patients since the first wave hit us in 2020, has also clocked an impressive 18.1 percent growth between 2017 and 2021. Multivitamins and minerals, a segment which saw traction as people started popping vitamin pills to boost immunity, also saw a 17.9 percent growth.
Historically, the chronic therapy drugs like anti-diabetic, anti-hypertension are the top molecules in the domestic market. It was during Covid19 when these acute therapy drugs like paracetamol, azithromycin too saw huge traction.
For example, antibiotic brand Azithral (by Alembic Pharma) became the top selling brand in January 2022, the first time ever, thanks to high demand during the third wave led by Omicron. Azithral was the top brand in January 2022, selling worth Rs 73 crore, and clocking a growth of 250 percent, showed IQVIA data. Dolo, a paracetamol brand, was the third ranking in January, selling worth Rs 64 crore, growing by 307 percent.
A senior pharma executive of a mid-sized Mumbai headquartered firm said that they had stepped up production of vitamins like vitamin C during the pandemic months, and would still stock out every now and then. “We saw an opportunity in these drugs, and immediately stepped up our production and distribution of all the above drugs. While the top brands like Dolo, Azithral etc would sell more, but the market had enough demand to accommodate lesser known brands,” he said.
Sheetal Sapale, President of market research firm AIOCD Awacs said that in the last two years (hit by the pandemic), brand launches have been primarily in the segments which looked attractive as opportunities.
"For example, there have been launches in molecules like azithromycin, ivermectin, enoxaparin, remdesivir, favipiravir etc which have seen high demand for treatment of Covid19 patients. Companies also knew that this season would be over soon," she said, adding that the other therapy segments have seen a relative lull in terms of new launches. Molecules that went off patent, like dapagliflozin (an anti-diabetes drug) too saw a rush among drug firms to launch their own brand.
Another pharma industry insider pointed out that paracetamol is a low value drug (less than Rs 5 per unit), and thus the fact that it clocked an over 20 percent CAGR indicates there was huge volume sales during the period.
Indian drug firms have maintained a steady run-rate of brand launches over the last decade. Top drug firms have launched anywhere between 284 to 457 new brands between FY2010 to FY2020. On an average, top drug firms have launched about 300 brands every year (which includes brand extensions too).