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Covid drug sales shine even as market slows

By Sohini Das
August 18, 2020 14:15 IST
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Fabiflu sales have grown by 62 per cent in July. It was launched in June. This drug is being used by doctors for mild-to-moderate Covid patients even if they are in home isolation.

Even as the domestic pharmaceutical market grows at a slow pace thanks to lesser fresh prescription generation, the Covid-19 drugs portfolio of domestic majors has seen a sharp rise.

For instance, the new rage favipiravir, an oral antiviral drug from Japan that was first launched by Glenmark in India under its brand Fabiflu.

 

Within a month or so, around a dozen brands crowded the market.

Data from market research firm AIOCD AWACS shows that Fabiflu sales have grown by 62 per cent in July. It was launched in June.

This drug is being used by doctors for mild-to-moderate Covid patients even if they are in home isolation.

Since it is an oral drug, it does not need hospitalisation.

Hyderabad’s Dr Reddy’s Laboratories (DRL) is all set to bring in the innovator brand of favipiravir, Avigan, as part of a tie-up it has with Japan’s Fujifilm Toyama Chemical Co and Global Response Aid.

A launch is expected this month.

The company admitted that its India revenues were hit during the April-June quarter due to lesser prescription generation and a sluggish growth in the acquired Wockhardt portfolio. It is bullish on its Covid-19 portfolio, nonetheless.

DRL has already launched nutraceutical products and hand sanitizers during the pandemic.

Products like azithromycin (common antibiotic used in Covid) have also seen traction, the drugmaker said.

DRL’s India business fell 10 per cent year-on-year in the June quarter of FY21.

Erez Israeli, chief executive Officer of DRL, felt that these products have been launched with a longer horizon in mind and not just targeted for the pandemic.

Israeli, however, also felt that the Covid-19 health crisis was here to stay for at least another year or so, which meant the Covid-targeted products would continue to do well.

“Unless a vaccine surprises us, the pandemic is here to stay at least for a year or so.

"Our data on favipiravir is showing it is a good product,” Israeli said.

Ahmedabad’s Cadila Healthcare, too, is on the frontline for Covid-related products.

From Elisa testing kits to sanitizers and immunity boosting medicines, the company has it all.

It has launched the cheapest brand of injectable drug remdesivir at Rs 2,800 per dose and also sells hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) that India uses as prophylactic against the Sars-CoV-2 virus.

Zydus and Ipca are the leading players who make HCQ, and the firms had supplied 100 million tablets to the government around April.

Drug majors like Cipla say that Covid drugs are not sold at high margin.

“We do not make money from these drugs. There is angle of public health here.

"Whatever little money we made, we have diverted them through donating personal protective equipment kits, etc,” said Kedar Upadhye, global chief financial officer of Cipla.

Cipla, too, has an entire portfolio of Covid drugs, including tocilizumab, whichi is a drug that it sells here as a part of an agreement with the innovator Roche.

Upadhye said Cipla comes on the top in terms of drugs that it has in its kitty - from HCQ, azithromycin, remdesivir, tocilizumab, and even favipiravir.

Photograph: Lindsey Wasson/Reuters

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Sohini Das in Mumbai
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