In eagerness to try out anything that might boost health and immunity against the coronavirus, many Indians flocked into pharmacies to purchase vitamins and in the initial stages of the pandemic. This resulted in a sharp rise of vitamin and mineral sales in the country in 2020 compared to previous years.
According to the pharmaceutical reports, over 185 crore Vitamin C pills were purchased by Indians in 2020 which is a huge growth of about 110% when compared to 2019 . In 2019 it was only about 4.7%. 171 crore pills of Vitamin C were sold individually across the country while 13 crore pills were sold combined with other multivitamins. Abbott Healthcare’s Limcee and Koye Pharma’s Celin were the top brands that had huge sales.
Vitamin C is known for its antioxidant reactions decreasing inflammation, which help in the immune function. In addition it promotes the growth and spread of lymphocytes, type of immune cell that increase circulating antibodies and proteins that eventually can attack foreign or harmful substances in the body.
Although it seems as a perfect immunity booster against the coronavirus, there is still no sufficient data to recommend the use of Vitamin C for the treatment of Covid in critically ill patients.
Another vitamin that had a spike in its sales was the zinc supplement, Zincovit. For the first time topping the domestic pharma retail market, its sales increased by 93% , with a total of 54 crore of pills sold in 2020 against 28 crore pills sold in 2019. It became the highest selling brand , becoming the first multivitamin brand to cover the sales of diabetes drugs.
Zincovit, a multivitamin and multimineral supplement , comprises of essential vitamins and minerals with added benefits of grape seed extract. It plays a major role in cellular function, metabolism and immunity.
According to All India Organization of Chemists and Druggists ( AIOCD), the overall multivitamin and minerals category, in terms of unit sales, grew by 20% , from 248 crore pills sold in 2019 to 300 crore pills in 2020. Rajiv Singhal, secretary of AIOCD stated “ These categories have seen a jump due to the outbreak of Covid. The concept of stronger immunity has gained importance last year and for the first time, the sales of health supplements such as Vitamin C, Zinc and D3 has posted record sales “
As mentioned by him Vitamin D3 ,especially brands like Alkem laboratories, Uprise and Cadila’s Calcirol also saw an increase in sales. Vitamin D3 is known for reducing the risk of infections.
Becosules Z, by the US brand Pfizer was another multivitamin that showed almost a 50% growth in its sales in 2020. In 2019 , 27 crore Becosules Z pills were sold while in 2020 it increased into about 40 crore pills.
“Due to the pandemic, the focus of the population has shifted to holistic health and in the search of immunity, the prescription of such drugs has been increased multiple folds. Moreover, the role of vitamin C, Zinc, Vitamin D is proposed and recommended by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) in various Covid treatment guidelines for all kinds of Covid positive cases,” said Dr Rashid Gouri, a senior resident at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi.
While multivitamins and immunity boosters are seeing strong sales, concern over their quality and effectiveness remains. Any vitamin normally consumed to increase immunity will boost immunity against Covid also. But the problem is there are so many things in the market or pharmacies that are promoted and nobody really knows their effectiveness making it a bigger concern.