You may still find a bottle of Phensedyl, Corex or Benadryl in your medical box. They are household names for most Indians and are among the country’s top selling medicines.
But with the government banning around 350 fixed dose combination drugs, many popular cough syrups – that are almost sold like an over-the-counter product -- may go off shelves.
Thus, your trip to doctor on the next cough attack becomes almost certain. The hunt for new cough syrup has begun.
Consumers who already use herbal syrup will stick to it. But those consuming allopathic syrups may rethink their preferences after knowing it was alcohol, caffeine or codeine, among other ingredients, that make them feel better.
They will move either towards the herbal category or a product promoted via word-of-mouth publicity. Or go to the doctor to ask for an alternative.
A marketing head at a leading herbal drug making firm believes the government’s action has boosted consumer awareness about the ‘harmful’ contents of cough syrup.
“The media headlines will make them worry about what they have been consuming till now. They may check the ingredients before making the purchase, this is where we will win,” he said.
To catch this new consumer, companies will soon draft strategies and arm their medical representatives (MRs) with new pitches to push their non-codeine-based brands via doctors.
The companies to watch out for includes Dabur (Honitus), Patanjali (Kanti Herbal), Himalaya (Koflet), Glaxo SmithKline (Piriton) and Brozedex (Wockhardt).
Be ready for catchy jingles such as -- a codeine free syrup which tastes as yummy as strawberry, is fortified with minerals and vitamins, has no drowsiness and no side-effects.
Brand experts say companies are expected to launch more variants, so get ready to see more television commercials and banners with coughing kids and elders.
Only 13 of the 80-odd cough syrup brands available in the Indian market are over the counter, as per the latest Nielsen data.
The market is highly fragmented, where no brand including Phensedyl, Corex and Benadryl has more than 10% of market share. Popular herbal cough syrup, Honitus, commands 2% market share.
As per IMS Health, a research company, cough preparation was the highest selling therapeutic subgroup last year in value terms with significant growth of 35% on monthly basis.
The strategy of popular ones will be to protect the market share they have captured over the years. For others, it is an opportunity to wage war and gain market share.
Good luck to them.
However, they must not forget that Phensedyl and Corex both have received interim stay from the high court against the government’s notifications and will continue to sell products until they lose the legal battle.