(This story originally appeared in on Apr 30, 2020)
NEW DELHI: Sales of anti-infectives (antibiotics and antivirals), respiratory drugs, painkillers and analgesics — some key medicines used for influenza-like illnesses — have remained mostly unchanged in last three months (January to March), partly explained by the lockdown but also indicating no unusual rise in flu-type infections that might point to a wider and undetected spread of Covid-19.
Sales of most medicines, including this set of drugs, dropped significantly after the nationwide lockdown was imposed on March 25, sales data from the All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD) shows. Industry executives and chemists said the April sales data showed a month-on-month decline of 30-40%. But even though the lockdown is seen to be impacting sales of most drugs, the pattern for medicines for infections and flus is no different.
Experts said the decline in sales was primarily because of the lockdown and other restrictions which forced people to stay indoors. This reduced incidence of infectious diseases in general. But the data also suggests no significant jump in number of ILI cases with related medicines following the overall pattern of most drug sales. According to AIOCD data, sales of anti-infective drugs increased by 4.24% month-on-month in February. It dropped by 4.3% in March and by 34% in April (till third week). Similarly, in case of painkillers and analgesics which are used for fever, sales increased slightly in February by 1.6% compared with January but dropped in March. In April, sales for these prescriptions dropped by around 27% month-on-month.
Respiratory drugs, which registered highest year-on year growth in March, also remained largely unchanged in the first three months of the year, but dropped by 20% in first three weeks of April.
According to Niti Aayog member Dr V K Paul, the fact that sale of anti-infectives and respiratory drugs have not picked up or broken from the overall trend of sales indicates that Covid-19 is under control and there is at least no big increase in severe cases needing urgent medication or hospitalisation.
“There is certainly a trend of not buying as many medicines as people otherwise do. If these diseases are actually on the rise, then that would have reflected in sales numbers,” a senior executive from the pharma industry said.
“The decline in sales is primarily because of lockdown. When OPDs are closed, consultations are closed, even most chemist shops are closed, sales are bound to decline,” said Sandeep Nangia, president, Delhi Chemists Association.