Increase in colds and flu boosts drug sales

A resurgence in colds and flu has combined with Covid-19 to boost over-the-counter drug sales, giving consumer healthcare groups an impetus to produce cough remedies. and sneeze for people.

“This year we have seen a cold season,” said Tobias Hestler, chief financial officer of Haleon, the consumer healthcare company FTSE 100 that spun off this year from drugmaker GSK. and influenza persists and spreads.

The company, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of over-the-counter medicines, said sales of its respiratory medicine rose 30% year-over-year in the third quarter, “due to both consumer consumption increases due to the incidence of colds and flu. . . as well as symptoms of Covid”, even before winter.

Medicine has attributed to an increase in colds and flu for people staying indoors more after two years of pandemic restrictions. Bruce Charlesworth, Reckitt Benckiser’s medical director, said “lower immunity” between populations was the result of past movement restrictions.

The combination of seasonal illnesses with Covid prompted Haleon – which makes cold relief products Theraflu, cough medicine Robitussin, Flonase nasal spray and decongestants Otrivin and Contac – to upgrade its direction in November. revenue growth for the year.

For rival Reckitt, which makes Mucinex, Strepsils and Lemsip, the rapid spread of the disease helped offset a drop in the use of disinfectants Dettol and Lysol, which were already sold in bulk. earlier in the pandemic.

According to Ryan Dullea, head of Reckitt’s over-the-counter medicine business, households are also using over-the-counter drugs to self-treat Covid-19, which has a less severe impact on those already receiving treatment. immunizations and people whose recent strains have had symptoms similar to colds and flu.

Dullea said while sales are still strong through 2022, Covid-19 has made it difficult to predict the course of respiratory illnesses for the remainder of the current season and beyond. more difficult.

“We’re still trying to figure out how things go, with the line between Covid and cold and flu symptoms becoming increasingly blurred,” he said.

But the pandemic has made “consumers more aware of germs and diseases,” he added. “More and more people are not going to work and ‘surmounting difficulties’.”

Companies like Reckitt have been building consumer healthcare businesses with the expectation that an aging population and a struggling national health system will push more consumers towards medicines no prescription required.

“The role of prevention and self-care is crucial in protecting already overwhelmed health care systems,” said Charlesworth, adding that everyone should also get a flu shot.

According to Kantar, sales of cold and flu medicines in the UK increased by 28 per cent in value to £288.5m in the year to 27 November from a year earlier.

Many countries have run lack of antibiotics following a surge in infections, but Dullea said his company’s supply chain has been able to keep up with demand for over-the-counter drugs.

Consumer groups have also invested in vitamins, minerals and supplements, which were heavily sold during the acute phase of the pandemic but have since retreated.

Another question is how far these categories might be affected by the financial squeeze of consumers due to inflation.

Consumers tend to stick with familiar brands for cold and flu treatments, Hestler said, but “we’ve noticed that in certain categories there have been some channel changes, [for example] buy smaller package sizes, such as through Dollar Stores.”

In early December, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a higher number of flu cases and hospitalizations than at the same time in any year for more than a decade, while flu season in Australia took place earlier than in the Northern Hemisphere. worst since 2017.

In the UK, Conall Watson, consultant epidemiologist at the UK Health Security Agency, said in December that flu hospitalizations were at their highest level since the 2017-2018 season. .

According to Euromonitor, the largest global producer of cold and flu medicines is US-based Johnson & Johnson, followed by London-based Haleon and Reckitt Benckiser.


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