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Flat sale of flu drugs hints at no unusual rise in infections

(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.

India’s pharmaceutical companies hope Biden will not push for ‘Made in America’ drugs

MUMBAI | NEW DELHI: India’s large generic drug makers that depend on the US for 60% of their exports revenues are hopeful that their growth opportunity in the world’s largest pharmaceuticals market will improve under a Joe Biden presidency, industry officials said.

The industry is closely watching what stance the president elect will take with regards to the generic drug industry, and hope that he would not pursue President Donald Trump‘s push for ‘made in America’ medicines.

“Obamacare (Affordable Care Act that aimed to provide affordable health insurance coverage for all US citizens) will be back in focus, which will further improve the growth opportunity for Indian pharmaceutical industry,” Dinesh Dua, chairman Pharmaceutical Export Promotion Council told ET.

Another representative of an Indian pharma lobby group said these are early days and any impact of the new administration on the industry will be seen only after January 2021.

While Trump’s stand on making drugs cheaper for Americans supported the generic industry, his rhetoric regarding passing an executive order for making drugs locally had put the Indian generic industry in a flux.

The outgoing president had in August issued an executive order, telling federal agencies involved in the procurement of essential medicines, medical countermeasures and critical inputs to “prioritise purchase of such items from domestic manufacturers to reduce the country’s dependence on foreign manufacturers”. It also urged these departments and agencies to identify vulnerabilities in the country’s supply chains for these products.

EU pledges 200 million COVID vaccine doses to poor countries

The European Union said Thursday it will donate more than 200 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to middle and low-income countries before the end of the year.

That’s double the initial amount that the 27-nation bloc had planned to deliver, mainly through COVAX, the U.N.-backed program to provide shots to poorer parts of the world.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said the EU “takes its responsibility in helping the world fight the virus, everywhere. Vaccination is key – that’s why it is essential to ensure access to COVID-19 vaccines to countries worldwide.“

According to the EU, COVAX has so far delivered 122 million doses to 136 countries.

The EU said it is also providing assistance to African countries to help them manufacture vaccines and medicines in order to reduce the continent’s dependence on imports.