European e-Conference report 2021

In this week’s blog, we highlight the key takeaways from our recent European e-Conference and take a closer look at one of the slides from Nicholas Hall’s Global Trends presentation, looking at the fastest-growing brands in consumer healthcare over the past five years.

Nicholas Hall Writes: 100 delegates from around the world joined us in late April for our first-ever e-Conference, and many more are expected to listen to the recording. The conference reviewed global and European trends in the consumer healthcare market, the impact of Covid, changing consumer attitudes and the omnichannel shopper journey, the digital revolution and our forecasts for the future. These and many other topics were covered under the banner of “A Glimpse into the New Normal”.

There is no denying that “immunity” is the biggest buzzword in consumer healthcare at the moment, and has produced some amazing results. We’ve just completed an analysis of the new DB6 data, looking at the fastest-growing brands over the past five years. Just to be clear, this is drawn from the 200 biggest brands and excludes those specifically from China, which are very largely formulated with traditional Chinese medicine. Sambucol, a brand I love dearly and have used for 20 years, shows up as the second fastest growing brand. Only Biofreeze (to be acquired by Reckitt in a deal expected to complete in Q2 2021) has grown faster during this period.

Source: Nicholas Hall’s DB6 database. All values US$mn at MSP.

CHC Insight Europe Editor Sarah Carter and Researcher / Writer Nathalie Corbett filed this report summarising various highlights from our European e-Conference:

  • There is an increased consumer focus on prevention, not just in terms of avoiding Covid-19, but also awareness that people with better overall health have better lifestyle outcomes. Many consumers are no longer looking for treatment, but instead seek to safeguard their future health.
  • During the pandemic, the health consumer has evolved from patient to “consum’actor”, who uses their purchasing power to protect the values and causes they believe in.
  • The consumer is in control of our industry and we need to deliver on their expectations. The best medicine is a consumer who is informed, empowered and inspired.
  • The way consumers shop has been severely disrupted and perhaps irrevocably altered by the pandemic. The CHC industry must respond with agility in order to successfully compete in this omnichannel landscape.
  • Consumers cross these different channels in a way that’s seamless, with lines blurring between communication, point of purchase, advertising, etc.
  • It’s all about the data – get this data culture deeply embedded at all levels of your organisation. It’s also about the right data, and not being inundated with data that isn’t useful. Identify the relevant KPIs and target those.
  • Tech and Big Data can help us gather insights and use these to deliver relevant business developments and product innovations. Consumers themselves are increasingly generating a wealth of data, including via self-monitoring devices.
  • Online can offer opportunities that offline cannot, even when it comes to personal advice. Digital interactions are sometimes preferable vs crowded stores / time constraints.
  • But pharmacies still account for 76% of purchases, and have a superb chance to fight back and regain market share provided they collect new insights into their customers’ shopping journeys.
  • We should no longer refer to e-commerce, but rather e-life. Platforms like Amazon are increasingly media hubs rather than just online stores.
  • Brand building is more important than ever as consumers adapt to the New Normal. We must be present and relevant and focus on creating an emotional bond with the consumer, a traditionally weak area.
  • There can be no return to old strategies and the old way of doing business. It is time for new strategies and New Paradigms.

We hope you enjoyed our European e-Conference 2021! If you couldn’t attend, you can still purchase a recording of the meeting by contacting elizabeth.bernos@NicholasHall.comImmunity & other Growth Drivers will be the focus of our next round of regional hot topic webinars. Starting with a focus on Asia-Pacific on 19 May, on the Americas on 23 June and concluding with Europe on 21 July. Please contact elizabeth.bernos@NicholasHall.com to find out more.

Prebiotics on cusp of exponential growth


According to prebiotics developer, Swiss-based Clasado, the category has “exponential” growth potential, with increasing consumer awareness and an upswing in demand from key players. CEO Per Rehne said: “Because the prebiotics market has gathered pace over a relatively short space of time, it’s easy to forget that the isolated ingredients are still relatively new compared to many of today’s nutrition technologies. Global Market Insights predicts a very solid 8.5% global CAGR until 2024, but it is likely to surpass this … [in a] perfect example of the ‘right technology, connecting with the right market, at the right time’.” He added: “Real market appetite [is] reflected in new product innovation from some of the biggest international brands”.

Clasado is working on a “major project” with P&G, which will see galactooligosaccharide prebiotic ingredient Bimuno  “feature heavily in a novel gummy designed to make a real difference to the consumer.” Rehne concluded: “It’s an exciting time for brand owners and formulators. We’re only just scratching the surface of what prebiotics are capable of in terms of capturing consumer attention and unlocking fundamentally better gut health.”

Coinciding with April’s IBS Awareness Month, i-Health / DSM has launched Culturelle IBS Complete Support in the USA for the dietary management of IBS. The first product from the brand that does not contain probiotics, the medical food – to be used under medical supervision and direction – is powered by HMO (human milk oligosaccharide) bioactive prebiotics, natural digestive nutrients that promote the growth of good gut bacteria. It claims to be able to reduce the severity of symptoms such as stomach pain, bloating, constipation and diarrhoea by 60% and cut days with symptoms by 50%. In tandem, the “Take Back Your Days” campaign offers consumers the chance to win US$100 to spend doing something they enjoy with their reclaimed time. The first 1,000 entrants will receive a box of Culturelle IBS Complete Support, which is available now at a number of retailers with a suggested retail price starting at US$29.98 for a box of 28 single serve packets. The recommended dose for adults and children aged 12+ years is one packet once daily, mixed in liquids or food.

Comment from Dave Redford, Managing Editor, CHC New Products Tracker: This new Culturelle product is a unique proposition in several ways: Formulation (first Culturelle product with no probiotics, just prebiotics); Regulatory status (first Culturelle product to be registered as a medical food); and Positioning (first Culturelle product for IBS). Still by far the No.1 US probiotics & prebiotics brand with sales of over US$150mn, Culturelle has however seen growth slow in the past two years in line with the category overall, as competition intensifies and the market matures. With a claim to offer “more symptom-free days” to IBS sufferers, backed by clinical research, i-Health clearly sees Culturelle IBS Complete Support as offering a new avenue for growth.

Review the best in class innovations among GIs and probiotics & prebiotics from the past year in our recently published Innovation in CHC 2021 report from CHC New Products Tracker. Showcasing 110 of the latest innovations across CHC categories, with a look at trends in delivery format and ingredients, as well as profiling innovation by the leading players, for more information, or to order your copy, please contact melissa.lee@NicholasHall.com

CCA down, but mental wellness products boom

Global CHC market sales in bricks & mortar outlets totalled US$150bn in 2020, with growth decelerating to 3.3%. Categories that were hardest hit by the slowdown were concentrated among CCA (notably cough and sore throat remedies) and Dermatologicals (such as lip care, cold sore and head lice treatments), as a result of social distancing guidelines. However, there were some notable sales successes in 2020, including sedatives & sleep aids and herbal memory & brain health supplements.

As we wrote in the latest issue of CHC.NewDirections: “Sleep quality has deteriorated as the Covid-19 pandemic has progressed, according to the ongoing University College London Covid-19 Social Study. Of the more than 70,000 participants, 12.7% reported “very good” sleep quality in March 2020 vs only 7.7% in March 2021. The number of people who said their sleep quality was “very poor” increased from 5.4% (Autumn 2020) to 10.1% at the start of the New Year.”

CIMA Market Analyst, Sacha Hawker, notes that this increase in sleep disturbance has been accompanied by a rise in sleep-related apps and devices in recent years, creating even more crossover between technology and consumer healthcare. And globally, there have been more than 160 new products with a mental wellness positioning since the pandemic began in December 2019 (Source: Nicholas Hall’s CHC New Products Tracker). With lockdown measures still in place alongside other stress factors, we expect this trend to continue.

Four notable 2020 sleep device launches from our Innovation in CHC report:
Withings Analyzer (Europe), SleepCheck (Australia), Sunrise (UK) and CoolDrift Versa (USA)

Commenting on the DB6 results, Nicholas Hall said: So there it is! Finally, the 2020 growth rate was somewhat lower than expected at 5% (all channels of distribution), more or less in line with the five years before the Covid outbreak. But within the market there has been radical change, and the stable overall growth rate cannot disguise the weakness of the cough & cold market – much worse than expected – and indeed of the whole retail sector. At the moment we are working on the short-term and long-term forecasts for the new edition of DB6, and there are puzzled frowns and long faces among the forecasting team.

So where do we look for rays of sunshine? As my colleague Celine Waller writes, anything connected with immunity and disinfection and e-Commerce is having a fine time, and the expectation is that this boom will carry over for two or three more years. And she points to sedatives & sleep aids among the rock stars with a 13% growth rate. This ties in perfectly with earlier predictions made during a webinar given by Jennifer Cooper and I a month ago. If you haven’t listened to the recording of that webinar, I strongly advise you to do so (link here).

Only two weeks to go until our European e-Conference 2021! Register now to explore e-Commerce and other major trends impacting CHC on 28-29 April with Nicholas Hall and a panel of industry experts.
For a look at the full agenda, please click here
To book your place at our European e-Conference, or to find out more about our other webinars, please contact Elizabeth.Bernos@NicholasHall.com 

Nasal sanitisers niche opens up post-Covid

One of the fast-emerging OTC niches in the CCA category is oral & nasal sanitisers, with several notable innovations in 2020 and 2021, including two more nasal sanitiser launches announced recently.

Australian-based Starpharma’s Viraleze nasal spray will become available online in the UK this week ahead of a retail rollout in April 2021, under an exclusive sales & distribution agreement with the retail chain, LloydsPharmacy (McKesson). This will be the product’s first appearance in Europe, although a regional launch is expected soon following its registration in the European Economic Area in February.

Comment from CHC Insight Managing Editor, Chris Allan: Viraleze contains the same antiviral ingredient (SPL7013 / astodrimer sodium) that features in Starpharma’s VivaGel products. Its powerful claim to deactivate “>99.9% of Sars-CoV-2 within one minute” is likely to attract wider media interest given the continuing national focus on the pandemic, and LloydsPharmacy has committed to “significant” marketing investment.

Separately, in Israel, SaNOtize has received interim approval to sell its nitric oxide nasal spray (NONS) in pharmacies. NONS protects users from viruses that enter the body through the upper nasal pathways. Local manufacturing under the brand name Enovid has begun in partnership with Nextar Chempharma Solutions and the spray is expected to appear on pharmacy shelves by the summer.

Meanwhile, in New Zealand the Ministry of Health denied claims by the Canadian-based biotech company that Enovid had been cleared for immediate OTC sale. Newshub quotes a MoH spokesperson: “Based on the therapeutic claims made for the product, its claimed mode of action and the nitric oxide ingredient, Enovid nasal spray would be a prescription medicine under New Zealand law (Medicines Act 1981) … Medsafe has received no applications for approval of this product for sale, supply or use in New Zealand.”

Comment: SaNOtize and Ashford & St Peter’s Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in the UK recently announced results of clinical trials indicating that NONS represents a safe and effective antiviral treatment that could prevent the transmission of Covid-19, shorten its course and reduce the severity of symptoms and damage in those already infected.

Oral & nasal sanitisers is one of the delivery formats trends covered in our new Innovation in CHC 2021: NPD & Launch Activity under the Spotlight report. Seize the last chance to save GB£1,350 when you pre-order this forthcoming report before 31st March. To review the table of contents or pre-order your copy, please contact melissa.lee@NicholasHall.com

CBD industry revving up again in 2021

2020 was a tough year for the CBD industry, with Covid causing disruptions to supply chains as well as lower footfall in bricks & mortar retailers, and these setbacks were reflected in greater hesitancy from CBD marketers in terms of NPD activity – according to our CHC New Products Tracker service – with launch activity in 2020 much lower compared to 2019. However, recent regulatory developments in Australia and Mexico, and the uptick in M&A activity in the CBD industry over recent weeks, suggest 2021 will see a revival in NPD activity and sales.

For example, Curaleaf, a leading US provider of consumer cannabis products, last week signed a definitive agreement to acquire EMMAC, the largest vertically-integrated independent cannabis company in Europe, for around US$286mn. Curaleaf Executive Chairman, Boris Jordan, commented: “[This acquisition] provides an advanced base to reach scale within the nascent European cannabis market and transform Curaleaf into a truly international cannabis consumer packaged goods company. The consumer and political liberalisation trends around cannabis that are sweeping USA are also increasingly taking hold in Europe … The European cannabis market has the potential to exceed the US cannabis market over the long-term and will help fuel our growth for years to come.”

In addition, a wholly-owned subsidiary of British American Tobacco last week subscribed for around 58.3mn common shares – a 19.9% equity interest – of Organigram, a leading licensed cannabis producer, for C$221mn (US$176mn). The companies have also entered into a Product Development Collaboration Agreement, under which a Centre of Excellence will be established to focus on developing the next generation of cannabis products, with an initial focus on CBD. “The cannabis industry is still in the nascent stages of product development. We believe that product innovation backed by core fundamental R&D is necessary to establish a long-term competitive advantage in the cannabis industry,” said Organigram Chief Strategic Officer Paolo De Luca.

Another M&A CBD development from last week was MediPharm, a research-driven global leader in cannabis extraction, entering into a GMP white-label supply and contract manufacturing agreement with Cannim. The company has also commenced registrations for the launch of next-generation OTC products in Australia in 2021. Under the 3-year agreement, with options to extend, MediPharm will supply a full range of specially-formulated CBD and THC cannabis oil products, sold initially under Cannim’s Lumir brand. MediPharm will also provide Cannim with contract manufacturing options.

Finally, a bill that would legalise the recreational use of cannabis was approved in Mexico’s lower house of Congress last week and will move to the Senate for final approval. The legislation would enable users aged 18+ years with a permit to carry up to 28g of cannabis and grow up to eight plants at home for personal use. President Andres Manuel Lopez has argued that the bill could help to curb Mexico’s violent and powerful drug cartels. John Walsh, Director of Drug Policy for the Washington Office on Latin America, a US advocacy group, said: “Mexico, given its size and its worldwide reputation for being damaged by the drug war, to take this step is enormously significant. North America is heading towards legalisation.” Canada and Uruguay are the only countries in the world to have legalised cannabis for recreational use. With its liberal switch environment, Mexico could be an early adopter of OTC cannabis, possibly the second or third market after Australia.

Discover who the main CBD players are, and how big the market could get in our recent report, CBD 2020: The 20 Most Important Questions about CBD in the Future of CHC. To find out more, or to order your copy, please contact melissa.lee@NicholasHall.com.

NPD roundup: Women’s Health in 2020

To mark International Women’s Day, our blog this week rounds up some of the most notable women’s health NPD activity in the global CHC market in 2020, with examples from all four major regions (Europe, Asia-Pacific, North America and Latin America), as provided by our CHC New Products Tracker service.

Probiotics & prebiotics was a particularly lively source of women’s health innovation, including Farmoquimica’s late 2020 launch of Simbiofem in Brazil, positioned to balance female intestinal flora and claimed to be the first probiotic in the market for women’s health. In Spain, FertyPharma unveiled Fertybiotic Mujer Plus in early 2020, uniquely positioned to improve the fertility of women with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), while in South Korea Huons launched Elruby Menolacto Probiotics in Q4 2020, offering the benefit of an original formula to help support menopausal women. In the USA, a particularly innovative women’s health probiotic launch was HUM Private Party, with a unique formulation that combines a proprietary women’s probiotic blend with cranberry extract, which is positioned to support healthy vaginal and urinary tract health.

As for digital health solutions, which are profiled in one of the chapter’s of our upcoming Innovation in CHC report, a notable women’s health development in the UK was Velieve (Healthy.io), an at-home service for women to determine if they have a UTI (urinary tract infection). Velieve was test marketed in London first and is available as a kit (containing a urine collection cup, dipstick and colour board), which is delivered within 3 hours of ordering online, and the user is then required to download the Velieve app to guide them through the test, turning their smartphone into a medical device to read the dipstick.

Finally, looking at VMS, there were also several notable women’s health developments in China in 2020, including GSK’s extension of calcium supplement Caltrate with Caltrate Women, Unilever’s rollout of Olly The Perfect Women’s Multi and Eu Yan Sang’s launch of Gold Label Bak Foong Small Pills (a plant-based formula positioned as a treatment to alleviate menstrual pain).

Seize your last chance to save on our forthcoming report from Nicholas Hall’s CHC New Products Tracker, Innovation in CHC 2021. Putting innovation and NPD activity from 2020 under the microscope, click here to pre-order your copy without delay. For more information, or to place your order, please contact Melissa.Lee@NicholasHall.com

RB sales +11.8% in 2020; Biofreeze in, Scholl out

RB recorded its highest-ever sales increase in 2020, with net revenue up 11.8% on a like-for-like basis to £14bn (US$20bn). Health grew by 12.1% to £4.9bn (US$6.9bn), while Hygiene sales had an even better year (+19.5%) in 2020 and Nutrition sales were flat. E-Commerce sales grew by a record +56% in 2020 and now account for around 12% of group net revenue.

In Q4 2020, total RB net revenue was £3.6bn (US$5.1bn), +10.2%. Health grew by 2.8% to £1.2bn (US$1.7bn), with strong growth for Dettol, Durex and Gaviscon partially offset by the expected impact of the weak cough, cold & flu season, which resulted in the OTC portfolio being down just over 20% in the quarter. Hygiene (+25.7%) was even more the main growth driver for RB in Q4, while Nutrition sales were 3.5% lower, with excellent growth for Airborne and Neuriva offset by lower sales for Infant & Child Nutrition products in Greater China; a strategic review of the infant formula business in China, which represents 6% of group revenue, is underway. E-Commerce sales were up 50% in Q4, accounting for around 13% of total group revenue.

At the same time, RB announced it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire the Biofreeze brand from US-based Performance Health (Madison Dearborn Partners). Financial terms were not disclosed. In USA, Biofreeze is the No.1 clinically-recommended topical pain relief brand and has delivered robust double-digit sales growth. “We see compelling opportunities to develop the topical pain relief category globally with Biofreeze and other RB pain management brands including Nurofen, Moov and Tempra,” said RB CEO Laxman Narasimhan. “The brand taps into the growing global trend for wellness and self-care and aligns with our strategy to build our US Health footprint into new spaces and places.” The deal is expected to close in Q2 2021.

In addition, US-based private equity group Yellow Wood Partners has agreed to acquire RB’s Scholl foot care brand, which operates globally outside of the Americas, for an undisclosed sum. The acquisition will reunite Scholl with the Dr Scholl’s brand – operated by Yellow Wood as a standalone company since its acquisition from Bayer in 2019 – as one entity after more than 30 years of separate ownership. The combined company, which generates annual retail sales in excess of US$700mn, with leading market shares in the global foot care category, will operate in 50+ countries. The deal is expected to be completed by Q3 2021.

Now is your final chance to register for our webinar on 3 March focusing on Mental Wellness across the Americas — join Nicholas Hall and Jennifer Cooper to explore the Sleep, Memory & Mood markets. For more information, or to take a look at the full schedule of webinars for 2021, please contact elizabeth.bernos@NicholasHall.com.

Sexual health OTC revolution

Building on the news covered in last week’s blog that Sanofi is planning to implement the US Rx-to-OTC switch of erectile dysfunction treatment Cialis by end-2024, this week we look at another major development in the OTC sexual health & fertility category – the announcement by the UK’s MHRA that it has launched a public consultation on the reclassification of two progestogen-only contraceptive pills containing desogestrel, marking the first time the agency has considered such a change.

MHRA is asking the public and stakeholders for their views on whether two continuous-use oral contraceptives – HRA Pharma’s Hana and Maxwellia’s Lovima, both as 75mcg film-coated tablets in 28-count packs – should become pharmacy medicines and available OTC, without a medical prescription (although, in parallel, desogestrel 75mcg will also remain available on prescription, with women potentially able to switch between prescription or pharmacy supply at different times). The agency notes that if the products are reclassified, pharmacists will have access to training materials and a checklist to help them to identify women who can receive the two medicines safely. Two separate consultations are open until 5th March (Hana link; Lovima link).

Following the switch of Adamed’s Maxon Forte (sildenafil 50mg) in Poland in early 2020, the rollout of OTC Viagra (Viatris) to Norway and Ireland in 2020, plus the EU centralised Rx-to-OTC switch of Fortacin (Recordati for Plethora Solutions) for premature ejaculation – formulated with lidocaine 150mg + prilocaine 50mg – in September 2020, the past year has seen a rapid expansion in the availability of OTC sexual health & fertility medicines. With OTC ED on the near horizon in the US market, the UK approval of the daily contraceptive pill as an OTC medicine could lead to a wave of similar approvals worldwide, and inject substantial growth into the global CHC market over the coming years.

CHC.NewDirections Consulting Editor, Nina Stimson adds: This really is an exciting proposal – not only a first for the UK, but also the first significant bid to offer oral contraceptives without prescription outside the Asia Pacific region – China and South East Asian markets lead the way, although sales in most markets are relatively small. If the proposal is approved, will UK pharmacists actively support the switch and help build OTC supply (and will the pharmacy protocol be sufficiently user-friendly not to push women back to the doctor)? And will any price differential between Rx or OTC supply be a factor? Not all ambitious switches in the UK have succeeded in the past, but we have high hopes for this one. Time will tell …

You can save up to GB£1,350 when you pre-order our forthcoming report from CHC New Products Tracker, Innovation in CHC: 2020’s NPD & Launch activity under the spotlight before 31st March! As well as looking in more depth at the latest OTC sexual health & fertility developments, the report also showcases the top 100 innovations in 2020 and features major ingredient trends, delivery format trends and much more. For more information, or to pre-order your copy, please contact melissa.lee@NicholasHall.com.

Sanofi CHC on track to be standalone unit by end-2022

At Sanofi’s Capital Markets Day 2021, the company’s Head of Consumer Healthcare, Julie Van Ongevalle, shared her vision for the business: “With the ongoing implementation of our fully integrated standalone model, we look forward to being more agile and reducing the complexity of our portfolio to drive growth with our consumer-centric, data-driven marketing approach.” The aim is to divest around 150 brands (from the current 250) in the next two years to focus on “priority categories”, such as allergy, body pain, general pain and mental wellness – particularly sleep aids – via a “granular approach”.

Rx-to-OTC switch has already been a key factor in driving growth in one of Sanofi’s priority categories, allergy remedies, thanks to the successful global OTC rollout of Allegra (first available in the USA in 2011) and launch of Xyzal Allergy 24HR (USA, 2017). Josephine Fubara, Chief Science Officer at Sanofi CHC, noted that Sanofi continues to make progress in bringing two potential OTC switches to the market in the coming years, erectile dysfunction treatment Cialis and flu antiviral Tamiflu, presenting a blockbuster opportunity with a combined sales potential of €1bn in the US market alone.

Source: Sanofi Capital Markets Day 2021 presentation

Sanofi also stated that it is on track with its plans to be a standalone CHC business by end-2022. The company said that the overall planning for the transition was complete, and that the majority of its standalone CHC legal entities would be operational by end-2021. Among the benefits that Sanofi believes this transition will bring include the agility to reignite its innovation engine and reduce time-to-market by around 20%.

Looking ahead, Sanofi is targeting above average market growth, driven by its focus on priority categories and Rx-to-OTC switch, with a view to becoming the best-in-market CHC performer by 2024-25. Supporting this objective will be a focus on consumer insights, an emphasis on e-Commerce and digital channels and the operational independence provided by Sanofi’s standalone model.

Save up to GB£1,350 when you pre-order our forthcoming report from CHC New Products Tracker, Innovation in CHC: 2020’s NPD & Launch activity under the spotlight before 31 March. The report showcases the Top 100 innovations in 2020 and features major ingredient trends, delivery format trends, and much more. For further details, or to pre-order your copy, please contact melissa.lee@NicholasHall.com.

Historically slow cough, cold & flu season

Now that four (P&G, J&J, GSK and Sanofi) of the world’s Top 6 consumer healthcare marketers have reported their latest quarterly results, two of the key takeaways are that 1) industry growth has proven very resilient in the face of the challenges posed by the pandemic, and 2) we are in the middle of an historically slow cough, cold & flu season in 2020-21, and CHC marketers with portfolios that skew heavily towards CCA products will continue to feel the impact of this trend on overall growth.

Figures from the WHO’s FluNet service show the quasi-total wipeout of flu at a global level. Despite some signs of very low levels of flu circulation in certain regions tracked by WHO, including Africa and the Western Pacific, the overall picture at a global level is stark, with an almost complete drop-off in global infections since Q1 2020. The data shown in the WHO chart below are provided remotely by National Influenza Centres (NICs) of the Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System (GISRS) and other national influenza reference laboratories collaborating actively with GISRS, or are uploaded from WHO regional databases.

Source: FluNet (www.who.int/flunet), GISRS

This trend is backed up by recent reports at a country level too. According to data obtained by The Times newspaper, UK flu cases are down by 95%; in the second week of January – the peak of the season – the number of reported influenza-like illnesses was 1.1 per 100,000 people vs a 5-year average rate of 27. This reflects similar trends in many other countries, including USA. While a billion people typically get flu globally each year, “much less than a tenth” of that figure will do so, according to leading expert John McCauley. There are a number of theories for the decline; lockdown restrictions, social distancing and the wearing of masks, and an increased focus on good hygiene practices have helped to prevent Covid, but also reduce the spread of other contagious illnesses. A major fall in international travel has curbed infections, while there has also been a huge take-up of the influenza vaccine. Meanwhile, some experts believe the spread of Sars-CoV-2 may have raised immunity against other viruses.

Nicholas Hall said: “Before Covid, we thought we knew the dynamics of consumer healthcare very well. I’ve given endless presentations quoting the three practical drivers of demand: Switch, the Emerging Markets and very importantly Cold & Flu pandemics. It’s fair to say that, without Covid, we would by now be lamenting a year of poor CHC sales. The actuality is that, with the exception of Voltaren Arthritis Pain and Differin in USA, there have been no significant switches in the past 3-4 years. The Emerging Markets still deliver, of course, but not at the stellar levels of the recent past; and we would by now be reading of the low impact on sales of the cough, cold & flu season.”

Explore the impact of lockdown on cases of cold & flu, and what the implications may be for CHC medicines, in our recently published Cough, Cold & Allergy report. For more information, or to order your copy, please contact melissa.lee@NicholasHall.com.