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How Dolo-650 became the go-to fever drug during the pandemic

The total revenue generated by Dolo-650 increased by 289.6 per cent between the second quarter of 2020 and the second quarter of 2021, when India was witnessing the second wave of the pandemic.

Written by Anonna Dutt | New Delhi |
January 29, 2022 8:26:10 am
A health worker collects swab samples for Covid-19 test, at T-3 terminal of Indira Gandhi International Airport, in New Delhi. (PTI Photo/File)

Easy availability and being the doctors’ preferred prescription during the second wave are among reasons that have fuelled the rise in sales of Dolo-650, a brand of paracetamol. To be sure, there was an increase in sales of all brands of paracetamol as it is the safest medicine for fever that was prescribed to almost everyone with Covid-19.

However, the total revenue generated by paracetamol increased by 138.42 per cent between the second quarter of 2020 and the second quarter of 2021, when India was witnessing the second wave of the pandemic. The revenue generated by Dolo-650 increased by 289.6 per cent in the same period, according to data provided by market research firm AIOCD-AWACS.

In the same time, revenue generated by two popular brands of paracetamol by GlaxoSmithKline – Crocin and Calpol – increased by 53 per cent and 158.9 per cent, respectively. The revenue of the brand Sumo, manufactured by Alkem laboratories, went up by 110.6 per cent, as per the data.

Though the brand started out as a preferred prescription during the second wave, many have continued to use it without prescription during the third.

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Bhupendra Kumar, general secretary of the Indian Pharmacist Association, said, “Crocin and Dolo are the most commonly prescribed brands of paracetamol. However, Crocin is more readily available in a 500 mg formulation whereas Dolo is available in a 650 mg formulation. Since people were getting high fever during the second wave, many doctors were prescribing Dolo.”

He added, “And, you know the situation. If a doctor writes one prescription, it is circulated on WhatsApp and 10 people use it. That is how Dolo became a household name and people started using it for all fevers, aches and pains. And, it is being used even during the current wave.”

Kanav Nangia, a Delhi-based drug stockist, said this was aided by the easy availability and cost of Dolo-650. “The supply of Crocin hasn’t been regular through the pandemic; there are periods when it is not readily available. The other alternative is Calpol, but it costs more than Dolo. This is the reason Dolo became popular during the pandemic,” he said.

Dolo-650 is nothing but a medicine with 650 mg of paracetamol, an antipyretic (fever reducing) and analgesic (pain reducing) drug.

“With the pandemic, there has been an increase in the sales of all antipyretic medicines. It is an over-the-counter pill and people are buying and having it. Dolo just managed to cultivate its brand, especially among doctors, in the early days of the pandemic and its reaping the benefits. Don’t get me wrong, it is a very effective and affordable medicine,” said Dr Gurpreet Sandhu, president of the think tank Council for Healthcare and Pharma.

As the medicine gained in prominence, so did memes around it. Said a pharma market expert: “There was a lot of material about Dolo on social media, we do not know who put it there (advertising medicines directly to patients is not allowed in India). That is also partly the reason the medicine flew off the shelves; it is an over-the-counter medicine that anyone can buy without prescription. Second, Dolo initially marketed itself as a prescription drug, which unlike say Crocin was not commonly known to people, and pushed their sales through marketing to physicians. Now, everyone knows about it and buys it.”

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