Manish Kumar, OP
Bhubaneswar: The outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic in the state has led to surge in demand for Vitamin C tablets owing to its immunity-boosting qualities.
As the demand grows exponentially, chemist shops are running out of ‘nutraceutical’ and other products.
It is found that several alternatives or substitutes by some pharmaceutical companies have made inroads into the market but interestingly, they have further pushed the prices up. A few companies have rebranded their products and upped the prices by three times without even changing the combination. There are also some firms which have changed the composition to cater to the high demanding micronutrient.
A close survey of some of the chemist shops in the state capital revealed that some new brands have also entered the pharma market to sell their version of the nutraceutical.
“Earlier, there was hardly anyone buying Vitamin C tablets but now due to the surge in demand because of COVID, we are seeing many customers. Several new brands offering the tablet and some with a combination of Vitamin C and Zinc have now entered the market and are making good business,” said a representative from Shree Krishna Medical Store, Satya Nagar in the city.
Medically speaking, both Vitamin C and Zinc are considered as micronutrients with immunity-boosting capabilities. “Both the nutrients are taken to boost immunity. They are even recommended by the ICMR for treatment of COVID patients. As they are nutraceutical, they are easily bought over the counter without any prescription,” said Dr Manoj Sahu, a gastroenterologist from the city.
He also said that prolonged and excessive use of the drug should be avoided. Dr Sahu highlighted that while many countries do have norms to regulate sales of nutraceuticals, India is yet to finalise the norms. “The process had started for regulation of norms, but COVID pandemic delayed it further,” he said. With lesser regulations, several pharmaceutical firms have now chipped in to get dividends from the high demanding product.
Nevertheless, doctors and pharma representatives claim that prices of life-saving and essential drugs have not been tinkered with during this hour of crisis.
“There could be some sporadic reports of black-marketing but at large we have not seen any rise in prices of drugs for most of the diseases. In fact, prices of cancer drugs have come down due to the regulation of the lifesaving drugs by the National Pharmaceuticals Pricing Authority (NPPA) in the past two years,” said Ajay Goenka, Treasurer, Utkal Chemist and Druggists Association, Cuttack.
Dr Alakta Das, a gynaecologist from the city also said that the prices of drugs for hypertension and diabetes and other common co-morbidities have not changed drastically. She added that surgical and medical equipment like masks, sanitisers and gloves have seen a spike in prices with the onset of COVID-19 in the state.