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Pharma firms focus on OTC to hedge price cap

Facing regulatory challenges due to price control, pharmaceutical companies, specialists in selling prescription medicines, are increasing their focus on over the counter (OTC) drugs.

business Updated: Dec 23, 2016 11:02 IST
Himani Chandna
Facing regulatory challenges due to price control, pharmaceutical companies, specialists in selling prescription medicines, are increasing their focus on over the counter (OTC) drugs.
Facing regulatory challenges due to price control, pharmaceutical companies, specialists in selling prescription medicines, are increasing their focus on over the counter (OTC) drugs.

Facing regulatory challenges due to price control, pharmaceutical companies, specialists in selling prescription medicines, are increasing their focus on over the counter (OTC) drugs.

Sample this.

Domestic drug maker Mankind Pharma plans to increase the share of OTC drugs from 6% to 15% in its total revenue in the next two years. Glenmark, which virtually had negligible presence in the OTC segment two years ago, has lined up several product launches for the next two to three years. Another pharma major, Cipla, plans to launch around 20 products in the next few years.

“The pharma industry had suffered huge losses after the government introduced price controls on prescription drugs. To hedge the regulatory decision, about half a dozen OTC products are now being launched every month since the last one year,” said Chandru Chawla, head of corporate strategy and new ventures, Cipla. Last year, Cipla spun off its consumer health business to Cipla Health.

“OTC portfolio gives sustainable results, lesser pricing pressures and better opportunity for connecting the company with consumer,” said Subodh Marwah, vice-president, consumer healthcare business, Sun Pharma.

Novartis, Pfizer, Abbott, GlaxoSmithKline and Piramal are among the multinationals, which have a strong presence in the Indian OTC segment. Consumers should expect competition and more options in categories, inclouding lifestyle diseases, health supplements, pain and analgesics, baby and beauty products.

“Consumers should expect a price war in the OTC category in the next two to three years,” said RC Juneja, CEO, Mankind Pharma, which also sells deodorants and pregnancy kits apart from prescription drugs.

While Glenmark launched VWash Plus, a feminine intimate hygiene product, Lupin rolled out OTC pilot project across two geographies. Piramal acquired four gastro-intestinal products from Merck after acquiring five legacy brands from Pfizer, including Waterbury’s Compound and pain reliever Sloan’s.

Sun Pharma, in June, re-launched Suncros as an OTC brand, the product otherwise only sold as a prescription product, followed by the launch of Pepmelt, a granule-based antacid.

Companies are also experimenting with new models. Glenmark has tied up with online beauty portal Nykaa.com to sell its sunscreen, and soon plans to sell its other OTC products on e-commerce platforms.