Drug Sales Drop By Almost 50% In Kerala This Year
Pharmacy in Kerala

Drug Sales Drop By Almost 50% In Kerala This Year

However, drugs for lifestyle diseases like diabetes, cardiac and blood pressure witness steady sales

People avoiding hospital visits due to the COVID-19 scare, wearing masks, using sanitisers, and postponing unnecessary travel has resulted in drug sales dipping to the tune of Rs 16,000 crore in Kerala, say pharmaceutical firm officials.

“On average, drugs worth Rs 36,000 crore are sold annually in Kerala. But this year, the sale will touch only Rs 20,000 crore,” Pramod RG, Regional Head of Torrent Pharmaceuticals, told The Lede.

“The sale of antibiotics, respiratory and paediatric medicines are dipping drastically. All these segments are witnessing a sale dip of around 50%,” Pramod said.

Pramod claimed that, on average, antibiotics worth Rs 1500 crore are sold in Kerala, and since the COVID-19 outbreak, it has come down to Rs 750 crore.

He also said that the COVID-19 scare has forced children and elders to stay at home.

“Children and elders get respiratory uneasiness when they venture out in hot and cold climatic conditions. And even if they contract mild respiratory diseases, they are not taken to hospitals nowadays. So, eventually, drug sales have come down,” Pramod said, adding that even surgical segment sales are witnessing a dip because patients are postponing surgeries due to COVID-19 scare at hospitals.

However, Pramod confirmed that drugs for diabetes, cardiac and blood pressure are selling steadily.

“People cannot stop those lifesaving medicines for lifestyle diseases. So, the sales of those segments are steady,” he added.

Skin Clinics Shut Down

Pramod also added that dermatological medicines sales have come down drastically.

Confirming what Pramod said, Shibu Mohammed, dermatologist and managing director at Fascia Dermatology and Cosmetology Centre in Kochi, said that the number of patients has come down to single-digit numbers.

“In a day, I used to have 40 to 60 patients. Now, due to the COVID-19 scare, the number has come down to less than 10. For non-serious skin disorders, people are trying home-made medicines,” Shibu told The Lede.

“Additionally, as cosmetic medicines are highly pricey, only celebrities were opting for it. Nowadays here in Kochi, which is a hub for film and serial actors, nobody is coming for cosmetic treatments as they are also struggling financially due to lockdowns,” Shibu added.

Shibu claimed that many dermatologists in Kerala have shut down their clinics due to the COVID-19-induced financial crisis.

Meanwhile, KO Vincent, a small-time drug distributor in Kerala, said that they are storing only medicines worth Rs 1 lakh per month now because of less demand.

“We distribute medicines for discount medical shops. We used to store medicines worth Rs 5 lakh per month. But now, we are storing medicines only for Rs 1 lakh,” Vincent added.

Ajay K, a drug distributor in Thiruvananthapuram, said that even the sale of paracetamol has come down in the city.

“Most of the pharmacy outlets have stopped selling paracetamol without prescriptions. It’s a good move. Let people who have a fever and cold meet a doctor and buy medicines. Eventually, paracetamol sales have come down,” he said.

There are some 33,495 COVID-19 cases in Thiruvananthapuram and 220 deaths. In Kerala, the total number of COVID-19 cases is 1,87,000 and 719 deaths.

Meanwhile, an official from Kerala State Drugs & Pharmaceuticals Ltd, a public sector undertaking, which has been manufacturing and supplying essential and lifesaving medicines to government hospitals in Kerala, said that they would see a fall in production only next year.

“This year, we have already got an order for Rs 70 lakh for medicines to government hospitals. We are producing and supplying them. The shortest lifespan for the medicine produced here is 18 months. So, the medicine distributed to hospitals, if not given for patients, will be stocked and can be used for next year,” he said, adding that next year they expect lesser orders only because of undelivered stock at hospitals.

Decline In August

According to data research firm AIOCD-AWACS report, sales of drugs in India declined again in August after two months of growth as the struggle for anti-infective drugs continued amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report claims that overall sales in the Indian pharmaceutical market were down 2.2% year-on-year at Rs 12,162 crore in August.

“In August, sales of cardiac and anti-diabetic drugs grew 11.5% and 1.6% respectively, while vitamins also grew 6.2%,” the report claims, adding that anti-infective drugs continued to witness a decline in sales for the fifth straight month in August, indicating that patient continued to avoid visits to doctors’ clinics and hospital out-patient departments amid fear of contracting the infection.

Recently, Fitch Ratings has said that Indian pharmaceutical companies' sales will rise after a gradual easing of the COVID-19 pandemic-related lockdown measures that caused disruptions across most markets in April to June.

According to Fitch, travel restrictions to contain the pandemic reduced the number of doctor visits and hospitals prioritised COVID-19 treatment over other elective procedures.

“These affected prescriptions and drug sales volume in 1QFY21, particularly those used to treat acute medical conditions, with the monthly volume drop varying from high single digits to mid double digits across markets,” the Fitch report says, adding that nonetheless, resilient sales in chronic segments and active pharma ingredients (API) - for companies with in-house manufacturing - limited the overall impact.

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