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Fixed-dose drug ban: How ayurveda stands to gain

By Viveat Susan Pinto
Last updated on: March 21, 2016 12:32 IST
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Manufacturers pad up to exploit opportunity as acceptance of traditional remedies grows

The advertisement is telling. On Saturday (March 19), Ghaziabad-based Dabur India published it, extolling the virtues of its ayurvedic cough syrup, Dabur Honitus.

The product is positioned as an alternative to other cough syrups -- many of which have been banned by the government, as part of its clampdown on fixed-dose combination drugs.

Dabur -- a leading player in the ayurveda sector -- has moved quickly to take advantage of the ban.

Other ayurvedic drug majors, too, could cash in -- by pushing their products into the vacuum created in the market by the ban, said sources.

Next week, the Ayurvedic Drug Manufacturers’ Association, the apex body of the sector, will meet in Mumbai.

The manufacturers are expected to discuss their prospects to exploit this opportunity, a source told Business Standard.

“At a time when consumers have to be reassured of safety, there is no harm in informing them of ayurvedic products that are devoid of ingredients perceived to be not safe,” said Sunil Duggal, chief executive officer, Dabur India. 

Dabur is also a member of  the ADMA Executives at Baidyanath, Charak and Himalaya Drug Company, all of them key ayurvedic drug makers, privately admit that the ban could open up vistas, but its full potential would unfold over time.

“This is only the start.

"Fixed-dose combinations have been under a cloud for some time.

"While the move by the government is in keeping with consumer health and safety, we will have to wait and see how this pans out for us,” said an executive at the Himalaya Drug Company, whose annual turnover from ayurvedic medicines is estimated to be over Rs 500 crore (Rs 5 billion).

In fact, most of the top ayurvedic drug makers in the country have their turnovers in the region of Rs 300-500 crore (Rs 3-5 billion), a fraction of the revenue of conventional drug manufacturers.

Nimish Shroff, managing director, Charak Pharma, said the biggest bane of the Rs 25,000-crore (Rs 250-billion) ayurvedic drug market in India has been the presence of small and unorganised players whose yearly turnover is less than Rs 1 crore (Rs 10 million).

“Estimates show small and unorganised manufacturers constitute almost 88 per cent of the ayurvedic drug market in India.

Only about one or two per cent are in the top bracket; and about eight per cent are the middle segment,” he said.

Ayurveda chartThe dynamics of the market could change if one takes into account the growing acceptance of ayurveda and natural remedies in the past few years, claim experts.

Companies claim, the drug ban -- coupled with the resurgence of ayurveda -- is good news for them.

“We’ve seen that in the last two years, there is a strong market for ayurvedic products.

"While the makers will have to demonstrate the efficacy of their products, I don’t see why acceptance of ayurvedic medicines as an effective solution to health problems cannot grow,” said Duggal of Dabur.

Executives at Baidyanath said doctors’ recommendation would help their cause.

“Unlike in China where alternative and allopathic medicines have been synergised, India has no such contact between the two branches.

If, for instance, the MBBS programme teaches alternative and allopathic medicines in the first two years to students, and then, moves into specialisations in the latter half of the programme, acceptance and recommendation by doctors in general will improve.

"That is the key,” said Pramod Sharma, director, Baidyanath Ayurved Bhawan.

The image is used for representational purpose only

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Viveat Susan Pinto in Mumbai
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