Demand for Covid drugs down, says Cipla Global CFO

Drug maker said it isn’t seeing much demand for drugs such as remdesivir, tocilizumab, favipiravir and certain inhaled corticosteroids that were driving its sales in the second wave of Covid-19, dominated by the Delta variant.

“Hospitalisations are lower, escalations (from mild/moderate to severe Covid) are lower… it is basically paracetamols of the world that are gaining,” said Kedar Upadhye, global CFO of Cipla in an interview to ET.

Upadhye says the third wave will be limited, and focus of Cipla is to ensure that medicines are available to patients. “In fact in many cities, the third wave is as good as over, but people (who had infection) are still weak. The vitamin sales are expected to remain strong,” he said.

The third wave has been fuelled by the Omicron variant, which is highly infectious yet milder, causing flu-like symptoms such as fever, body pain and sore throat – requiring mostly over-the-counter medications such as paracetamol and multivitamin pills.

Paracetamol brands such as Micro Labs’ Dolo are stealing the thunder followed by GSK’s Crocin and Calpol cornering the remaining market. Cipla markets its paracetamol in different dosage strengths under brand names such as Paracip and Parafizz. Upadhye said Cipla isn’t putting incremental efforts on pushing paracetamol brands. “Our focus is to make sure these (brands) are available across India… the margins on these brands are not so high due to escalation of raw material costs. We can’t afford to spend on marketing these products,” he said.


Brisk Business in First Quarter

Among Indian drug companies, Cipla has an extensive Covid portfolio that includes antivirals, monoclonal antibodies, corticosteroids, vitamins, in addition to sanitisers, masks and rapid antigen test kits.

Cipla has reaped the benefit of its Covid portfolio in FY21, when its India business which it calls as ‘One India’ rose 15%. While the company doesn’t provide Covid specific sales numbers, it said the portfolio had generated about 4-5% of the company’s revenues of ₹19,160 crore in FY21. In the first quarter of FY22, its India sales rose by record 68% year-on-year to ₹2,710 crore on the back of Delta wave.

Cipla said that in the first quarter, Covid portfolio contributed to a high single digit of the overall sales of ₹5,504 crore.

But sales from Covid portfolio declined 10% year-on-year and 17% sequentially in the third quarter, the pharma company said.


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