Mumbai : For the first time in nearly two years, the domestic pharma retail market dipped into negative territory in April with a 9% decline, indicating a slowdown in the overall industry growth. The market had last posted a negative growth during May and August 2020, due to poor sales during the national lockdown triggered by the pandemic.

What is of a bigger concern is that sales of chronic therapies — usually more resilient — are also sluggish, with cardiac drugs even registering a decline of 4% month-on-month. The negative growth is attributed to the base effect, an industry expert said — the base of higher sales of Covid-related portfolio in the corresponding period of the previous year. Amid the Delta wave, sales of anti-respiratory, painkillers, antibiotics and anti-virals had spiralled.

Significantly, excluding Covid-related medication drugs, the market was flat in April, showing a negative growth of 0.5%, the latest figures by market research firm IQVIA said.

Overall, the pharma retail market was valued at Rs 1,44,486 crore with a 13% growth at MAT (moving annual total), or the 12-month period ended April. For the month alone, it was around Rs 13,502 crore.

Sluggish sales at this stage reaffirm fears of an impact on earnings, with the industry already facing headwinds from rising input, logistics costs, and shutdowns and supply disruptions from China over the last few months.The market registered tepid sales among most therapies, excluding Covid-related medicines, during most of 2020 due to the absence of prescriptions and lower OPD (outpatient department) visits. In 2021, the market slowly bounced back with lockdowns and restrictions removed across the country.

During April, anti-infectives, vitamins and respiratory showed a huge fall of 30%, 14% and 24%, respectively, while gynaec drugs posted the highest growth of 20% month-on-month. Others like neurology, gastro and dermatology posted only single-digit growth during the month. Acute therapy showed a decline of 15%, while chronic witnessed a growth of 1% over March.

Covid-related medication including anti-virals, vitamins, respiratory and pain-relief drugs all contributed to the drop for the month.

Major companies which registered a double-digit decline during the month included Cipla, Dr Reddy’s, Macleods and Mankind. MNCs registered an 8% dip for the month, while domestic companies posted a 10% decline, the IQVIA data, accessed by TOI, said.

Mixtard remained the topmost drug brand with sales of Rs 77 crore in the market in April. Among the top 10 brands, Electral, Pan and Thyronorm showed double-digit growth for the month.