Once again, it's that time of year when influenza is spreading like wildfire. Will drugs to treat the flu be far behind now that flu season has arrived?

According to data from Pharmarack, an integrated B2B healthcare platform, sales of the antiviral medication Oseltamivir, also known as Tamiflu, have increased significantly over the last three months. At least 227,000 units of the medication were sold in December 2022; this number increased to 294,000 units in January 2023 and 395,000 units in February 2023, with respective sales of Rs 9.7 crore, Rs 12.8 crore, and Rs 29 crore.

The increase in sales can be attributed to the nation's growing flu case count. A total of 3,038 laboratory-confirmed cases of various influenza subtypes, including H1N1 and H3N2, had been reported by the states as of March 9, 2023, according to information on the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme-Integrated Health Information Platform (IDSP-IHIP) under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

The ministry describes seasonal influenza as an acute respiratory infection brought on by viruses that are spread throughout the world, with an increase in cases observed during specific months globally. Each year, India experiences two seasonal influenza peaks: one from January to March and the other during the monsoon season. According to the ministry, seasonal influenza cases should start to fall by the end of March.

Oseltamivir is suggested by the World Health Organization (WHO) for influenza. For greater accessibility and availability, the central government has permitted its sale under Schedule H1 (prescription medicine) of the Drug and Cosmetic Act in February 2017. Oseltamivir is also freely accessible in India through the public health system.

Meanwhile, sales of the drug have spiked in the past few months. “A similar uptick was seen in February 2021, but that was more of the Covid-19 impact,” says Sheetal Sapale, VP of Commercial at Pharmarack, adding that the annual market has multiplied more than 3x in terms of value and volume since 2019.

The increase in sales has been occurring since 2020 as a result of several circumstances, including the Covid-19 epidemic and the flu season. According to data from Pharmarack, the top winners in the Oseltamivir market have been pharmaceutical giants Cipla, Hetero Medicines, and Macleods Pharmaceuticals. With its Oseltamivir medication, Antiflu, Cipla reported a value-terms gain of 65% in February 2021. In February 2022, the increase was at 29%, and in February 2023, it was at 6%. Similar to this, Hetero Medicines observed growth for its drug Fluvir of 16% in 2021, 18% in 2022, and 15% in 2023.

Also Read - NPCI forms agreements with fintech startups and introduces a health card for employed Indians that uses RuPay.