Vitamins boost pharma growthVitamins and minerals are among the drug therapeutic groups showing the fastest growth in sales in the domestic pharmaceutical market over the past year, show data from the research company ORG-IMS.

There are two main reasons proffered. One, Indians have a growing appetite for supplements. Two, these are mostly products out of government price control.

According to the August MAT (moving annual total) data, the vitamins, minerals and nutrients segment is the only group among the top five money-spinning therapeutic areas with growth in both volume as well as value terms on a year-on-year basis. ORG MAT data gives the annual sales of each therapeutic group for the September 2008–August 2009 period and compares it with the September 2007–August 2008 period.

While the vitamin segment grew 7.5 per cent in volumes (as against a 0.1 decline the previous year) and 10.3 per cent in value (against 5.4 per cent growth last year), all other segments showed a decline in growth. The top five revenue-generating therapeutic groups in the Rs 33,272.7 crore domestic market are anti-infective, cardiac, respiratory, pain management and vitamins.

Incidentally, the vitamins, minerals and nutrients segment is the only area (among the ones tracked by ORG-IMS) where five of the top 10 players are foreign multinational firms. While the market leader is the Indian subsidiary of Germany’s Merck Ltd, the other foreign MNCs among the top 10 are GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Pfizer, Novartis and Abbott.

Merck Ltd is the leading player with Rs 195 crore of business in 2009 (MAT August). Value growth, 7.3 per cent in 2008, became 13.8 per cent in 2009. Unit growth was huge, from a decline of 1.1 per cent in 2008 to a 19.1 per cent rise in 2009.

Pfizer’s vitamin business grew 15.1 per cent in value terms during the year, as against the four per cent decline recorded in MAT August 2008. The sale this year was Rs 142 crore, as against Rs 123.3 crore in 2008. The volume growth was an impressive 9.6 per cent as against a decline of 1.7 per cent last year.

The only Indian company whose vitamin sales also grew significantly during the period was Elder Pharma, from Rs 102.6 crore to Rs 120.3 crore, indicating a growth of 17.3 per cent in value terms as against 1.4 per cent negative growth in 2008. Volume-wise, the growth was 17 per cent as against 0.5 per cent the previous year.

Indian companies among the top 10 are Wockhardt, Raptakos Brett, Piramal Healthcare and Alkem.

Industry experts see the growth in the vitamin segment as part of a global trend. “It was widely expected that the vitamins and health supplement segment will see a decline in sales during the financial crisis. But contrary to expectations, the segment has done well globally, showing that people did not want to fall sick. That is the reason for the volume growth for vitamins in India, too”, Sujay Shetty of PricewaterhouseCooper said.

As for the value growth, “Some companies have succeeded in reformulating their vitamins to bring them out of price control”, he explained.