CHC GROWTH REMAINS STRONG, +8.2% IN MAT Q2 2022

The mid-year update from DB6 shows the global retail market advanced by 8.2% in the 12 months to end-June 2022. In terms of geographies, Europe (+11.6%) held its position as fastest-growing region globally with many key markets maintaining double-digit growth, driven by sustained significant increases in the cough, cold & allergy category (+32.6%), as well as a continued gains in analgesics (+11.1%). Largest market Germany improved moderately over MAT Q1 2022 (+10.8%), with remaining Big 5 Western European markets similarly displaying robust advances, notably Spain (+16.7%). Russia’s growth remains strong in this reporting period, driven by price rises — its conflict with Ukraine beginning formally at end-February 2022

Americas (+10.2%) was the second-fastest growing region globally; the US market slowed slightly from unprecedented MAT Q1 2022 growth to 9.2% — still growing well ahead of the global rate and advancing by over $3.3bn vs year-ago, driven by a 37%+ improvement in CCA, and notable growth in analgesics (+8.8%). In Latin America, leading market Brazil surged (+17.4%) with strong increases observed across most major categories; cough, cold & allergy (+49.9%) analgesics (+16.4%) and dermatologicals (+11.7%) being the most noteworthy.

Asia-Pacific (+4.3%) maintained its comparatively muted growth, with largest market China (+3.3%) slowing in view of continuing lockdown restrictions, as well as pharmacy sales restrictions on particular products, primarily impacting cough & cold categories and systemic analgesics. A continued positive increase for No.2 ranked Japan (+1.4%), aided by a dynamic systemic analgesic performance (+19.3%), has helped to offset the slight slowing in China; combined, these markets have a share of almost 70% of total regional sales.

Nicholas Hall Writes: As I hinted last week, MAT Q2 results for the global CHC industry went far beyond expectations. The industry held up well during the two years of the pandemic, with all-channel growth of 6.1% and 6.5% in 2020 and 2021. The assumption was that growth would start to slow and align more closely with the 5-year CAGR of 5.4%. But Q1 confounded that forecast and, looking just at the store retail sector, our combined efforts were rewarded with 9.0% growth at constant currencies. Surely that couldn’t last! Who says? As the latest results attest, growth is still buoyant at 8.2% and presumably will be a lot higher when e-Commerce is added. If only we had the data, but nobody does, although we are working very hard to bridge that gap!!

Another shock to the system is how well Europe performed, with the leading countries delivering double-digit growth, or very close to it in the case of France. Of course, it helps that cough, cold & allergy surged in the first half of 2022, but that alone does not explain the spectacular rate of growth overall, which has for example put Germany 0.6% ahead of where it was in 2019! 

Log on to hear from Nicholas and experts from Bayer, Havas Health and more at our Asia-Pacific e-Conference on 23 November! You can expect insights into sustainability, the Go-To-Market model and self-care collaborations. This online event will also include the presentation of our Regional CHC Creative Marketing Award. For more information, or to register, please contact elizabeth.bernos@NicholasHall.com.

Two Rx-to-OTC allergy switches approved by FDA

In a clear sign of a more favourable attitude to Rx-to-OTC switch, the US FDA last week approved two new allergy products for non-prescription use.

Lastacaft alcaftadine ophthalmic 0.25% solution (Allergan / AbbVie) is now available without a prescription online and in retail stores for individuals aged 2+ years with ocular allergies. As demonstrated in clinical studies, one drop works in as little as three minutes to provide relief from itchy eyes for up to 16 hours. Following the recent FDA Rx-to-OTC switch approval, the original patented prescription-strength formulation of Lastacaft is available in a 5ml multidose bottle containing a 60-day supply, as well as a twin pack with two 5ml multidose bottles.

Perrigo also received final approval last week from the FDA for the OTC use of Nasonex 24HR Allergy (mometasone furoate monohydrate 50mcg). This marks the first branded Rx-to-OTC switch for the company, which expects to begin offering the nasal spray later this year. Nasonex is a registered trademark of Organon and is used by Perrigo and its affiliates under licence.

Nicholas Hall’s Touchpoints: This development will no doubt lead to an increase in switch activity after House and Senate committee members cited concerns that “very few products in recent years have switched from prescription drugs to nonprescription drugs” and pointed out that the FDA is expected to “meet the goals of the Fall 2021 Unified Agenda and publish and subsequently finalise the proposed rule titled Nonprescription Drug Product with an Additional Condition for Nonprescription Use.”

The appropriations committees are also: “Concerned about dietary supplement products that are adulterated or misbranded, in particular with imported products. The agreement provides an increase of US$2mn in the FDA’s budget [US$6.1bn in total] to be used for inspections, as well as enforcement of the Dietary Supplement Health & Education Act of 1994”. My sense is that in the biggest market for both switch and dietary supplements, we could see a correction in the prevailing trend from treatment to prevention.

Take a look at the latest CHC innovations in our forthcoming 2022 edition of Innovation in CHC from CHC New Products Tracker. This report offers a look at Rx-to-OTC switch activity, as well as innovation by region, marketer and 20 individual countries. To pre-order your copy and save up to £1,350 with the pre-publication discount, or for further information on this report, please contact melissa.lee@NicholasHall.com.

South Africa results: Adcock CHC sales power forward in H2

South Africa’s No.1 CHC marketer, Adcock Ingram, said that its OTC division “recovered in amazing fashion” in H2 2021, driven by “increased demand for cough, cold & flu products”. The company’s unaudited results showed that overall turnover rose by 16% to R4.3bn (US$282mn) in the six months ended 31st December 2021, driven by volume growth of 9% and a mix benefit of 6% from new products, increased marketing activity on behalf of multinational partners and brand innovation.

  • OTC turnover grew by 26.4% to R993.9mn (US$65mn), arising from the relaxation in Covid-19 restrictions, which resulted in improved demand across the cough & cold portfolio vs the difficult comparative period. Citro-Soda, Allergex and Corenza-C all posted double-digit ex-factory growth
  • Consumer was up 32.7% to R795mn (US$52mn) supported by the inclusion of Epi-max (+15.3%) from 1st January 2021, when it was transferred from the Prescription division. On a like-for-like basis, sales improved 13.6% with key brands posting healthy growth, most notably painkiller Panado, driven by a marketing campaign linked to Covid vaccinations

Not all was rosy in the South African market, however. Following the disposal of its Animal Health and Respiratory Health Africa businesses, Ascendis Health’s remaining operations – Medical Devices, Pharma and Consumer Brands – reported an 18% decline in revenue to R1bn (US$65mn) in the six months to end-December 2021. Consumer Brands – R340mn / US$22mn, up by 1% – encountered headwinds in contract manufacturing plus the closing of and slower-than-expected re-opening of beauty salons. Port strikes and global supply chain challenges also impacted strategic procurement business Chempure. 

Following completion of a Recapitalisation Plan, which shareholders voted for in 2021, the Board will focus on rebuilding the company through a sustainable growth strategy. This includes optimising the Consumer Brands business, one of the largest VMS suppliers in S Africa, which presents a “compelling base for the group’s growth prospects”. The portfolio comprises seven key brands including Solal, Vitaforce, Menacal, Bettaway and Junglevite. Another pillar for growth is expansion via acquisitions. The Board is exploring opportunities to purchase “scalable, earnings-enhancing businesses in the broader consumer products sector”.

If you are looking to fill a gap in your business, Nicholas Hall’s executive recruitment service CHC TalentSelect may be able to help. With over 40 years’ experience in connecting people in the consumer healthcare industry, please get in touch with maricar.montero@NicholasHall.com to start your search.

Global CHC market +2.6% in MAT Q3 2021

The latest update from Nicholas Hall’s CHC database, DB6, shows that in MAT Q3 2021, the store retail CHC market advanced by 2.6%, a continued improvement over results seen throughout the year (vs -0.6% and +1.7% for MAT Q1 and Q2 respectively).

  • Vitamins, Minerals & Supplements (+6.1%) maintains its position as the fastest-growing category, albeit at a slightly slower rate. Stabilising immune-associated segments still contribute to a healthy topline performance as consumers continue to bolster natural defences; this, coupled with improvements in other subcategories (notably a return to growth for probiotics) has helped to keep the largest major category buoyant
  • Lifestyle CHC growth advanced to +5.9%, with eye care — the largest subcategory — returning a mid-single digit increase (+5.4%); this, alongside sustained double-digit increases in sedatives & sleep aids (+13.8%), as well as smaller categories such as emergency hormonal contraception and erectile dysfunction, boosted the topline
  • Gastrointestinals growth improved (+5.2%) with all subcategories once again seeing an upturn over the previous reporting period — a return to some “normalisation of life” (travel, dining out, etc.) has helped the wider category advance
  • Analgesics saw a further improvement overall (+3.6%) boosted by systemics returning to growth (+1.9%) after successive negative results, as well as consistent gains in topical formats (+7.2%)
  • Dermatologicals slowed further to +0.6% (vs +3.9% MAT Q2 21), a trend heavily impacted by the performance of antiseptics & disinfectants — the subcategory now declining by 9.8% following high growth levels seen in the peak of the pandemic
  • Cough, Cold & Allergy remains negative, with sales retracting by 5.3% in the 12 months to end-Sept 21. However, the macro trend continues to improve over the previous reporting periods (-14.5% and -9.7% for MAT Q1 and Q2 respectively) as incidence of typical seasonal pathologies rises vs a low comparator in 2020, with many players reporting improvements in quarterly terms

In terms of geographies:

  • Americas advanced by 2.4% (vs +1.3% MAT Q2 21) – N America now displaying a positive trend with continued improvements in USA & Canada. LatAm markets remain strong, with another double-digit result in Brazil (+12.1%), the most robust of the Top 20 markets
  • Asia held on to mid-level growth (+4.8%) in the reporting period; while the region continues to be impacted by loss of revenue from overseas visitors in key markets Japan (-2.1%) and Australia (-2.9%), steady single-digit increases in China and India helped to maintain the topline
  • Europe’s performance has flattened; Western European markets are improving (-2.0% vs -4.4% MAT Q2 21), impacted by the analgesics growth trend returning to positive, plus a softening decline for CCA over the previous reporting period. CEE markets advanced further, aided by mid-single-digit gains in Poland (+4.8%)

Nicholas Hall commented: Good news! My colleague Kayleigh Griffin-Hooper tells me that the latest DB6 data show that the store retail CHC market continued on a path to recovery in the 12 months to end-September. Broadly speaking, the majority of markets are returning to slightly stronger growth – or softer declines – compared to MAT Q2. Trends remain heavily influenced by the impact of Covid-19 across several healthcare segments – both positively and negatively – resulting in low level advances on a global level.

In three months’ time, when we have sales data for the Internet channel, it will be interesting to see whether this high-growth sector fully balances the softness in store retail sales.

We are pleased to announce that Nicholas Hall’s DB6 MAT Q3 2021 update is now available! Subscribers can access over 150,000 pieces of data, with more than 30,000 records covering 13,000+ brands and 3,000 companies across 63 countries. To find out more, or to set up a free demo, please contact kate.holdcroft@NicholasHall.com.

Global CHC Market Movers, MAT Q1 2021

We have now published our latest Market Movers update on the CHC Dashboard website, highlighting 6 brands that have been driving growth in the global CHC market in the MAT Q1 2021 period, as well as 6 brands in fast decline, and below we look at the trends behind these exceptional brand performances.

Given that antiseptics & disinfectants were by far the biggest growth driver in the global CHC market in MAT Q1 2021, it’s no surprise that two of the six fastest-growing brands were hand sanitisers, Unilever’s Suave and ArtNaturals (ArtNaturals). Both were standout performers in the US market among a raft of new entries in the vibrant subcategory.

Rx-to-OTC switch has also been an important growth driver, with GSK’s May 2020 launch of topical analgesic Voltaren Arthritis Pain the notable development, generating sales in excess of US$100mn in under a year on the market. Former switch brand Plan B One-Step also performed exceptionally well in MAT Q1 2021, owing to limited access to prescribed contraception and family planning clinics during the pandemic. Foundation Consumer Healthcare also backed the brand with TV ads explaining it does not affect future fertility.

In China, the two fastest-growing CHC brands were Mayinglong Musk, a haemorrhoid preparation extended into new subcategories thanks to product innovation, and Fu Fang E Jiao Jiang, which marketer Dong-e E-jiao Group revived by returning to a policy of targeting general (not just high-end) consumers, helping ensure a return to growth overall for tonics & cure alls in China.

As for products that suffered falling sales in MAT Q1 2021, the clear majority (4 out of 6) were CCA brands, given the historically weak cough & cold season experienced by the industry in the first quarter of this year. Global No.1 brand Vicks posted further heavy decline in Q1, with MAT Q1 2021 sales falling by 24.5%; combo packs of Vicks NyQuil / DayQuil packs fell particularly hard (-54%).

Reckitt’s systemic cold & flu treatment Mucinex Fast-Max and cough remedy Delsym also suffered heavy decline in MAT Q1 2021, as did Taisho’s cold remedy Pabron in Japan, which was hit by the downturn for domestic and inbound channels attributable to Covid-related issues.

We are pleased to announce that Nicholas Hall’s North American e-Conference 2021 will take place on 21 September! Sponsored by Catalent, Nicholas will be joined by industry experts to explore Challenger Brands & Key Pillars to the New / Modern Marketing World. To register, or to find out more, please contact elizabeth.bernos@NicholasHall.com.

MAT Q1 2021: Global CHC sales fall 0.6%

According to Nicholas Hall’s global sales database DB6, the retail (bricks & mortar) CHC market generated global sales of US$148bn, down by -0.6% versus a year ago. Further heavy decline for cough, cold & allergy (-14.5%), especially in North America and Western Europe, was largely responsible for the global fall in CHC sales. The Americas declined by -0.4%, driven by a -1.9% fall in North America, but slightly offset by a positive performance by LatAm markets (+8.5%), notably double-digit growth in Brazil (+10.6%).

Asia remained relatively weak (+2.6%); despite strong growth in China (+7.1%), the region continues to be impacted by loss of revenue from overseas visitors in key markets Japan (-9.1%) and Australia (-8.0%). Europe saw a significant downturn (-5.5%), heavily impacted by declines in CCA and analgesics in Western Europe. Key markets Germany (-13.3%) and UK (-13.9%) fell by double-digits during the MAT Q1 2021 period. In C&E Europe, meanwhile, Russia continued to post a positive performance (+4.1%), albeit at a slower rate than year-end.

As for global performance by major category, vitamins, minerals & supplements (+5.3%) remained the fastest-growing category – albeit at a slower rate than year-end 2020 – with immune-associated categories continuing to benefit from greater consumer focus on wellness maintenance and protection. Dermatologicals increased by +4.5%, its buoyancy largely attributed to the performance of antiseptics & disinfectants (+53.1%) during the pandemic. Lifestyle CHC grew by +2.4%, driven by double-digit increases in sedatives & sleep aids (+14.5%) as well as smaller categories such as obesity treatments, emergency hormonal contraception and erectile dysfunction.

Gastrointestinals returned a low level increase (+1.2%), while analgesics saw a decline of -1.8% globally, with systemics down -4.3%, largely owing to the effects of pantry loading at the start of the pandemic. Cough, cold & allergy saw the strongest decline, with sales falling by -14.5% in the 12 months to end March. Pantry loading, as well as the effects of lockdown restrictions, social distancing, mask wearing and hygiene measures resulted in significantly reduced incidence of respiratory pathologies.

At a time when consumers are highly aware of the importance of maintaining their immune system, we are pleased to announce that Immunity will be the focus of our next hot topic report! We will review a number of categories including antivirals, immune supplements and vitamins C & D and explore the latest launch activity, plus much more. To pre-order your copy and save with the pre-publication discount, or to find out more, please contact Melissa.Lee@NicholasHall.com.

Seasonal respiratory viruses re-emerge post-Covid

Recent reports from the UK and USA suggest a severe cold & flu season may be in store during winter 2021-22. With lockdown restrictions, increased hygiene measures and social distancing in force for over a year to reduce the risk of contracting Covid-19, the incidence of common respiratory viruses has been very low. However, with the lack of exposure to illnesses (especially among young children), many of us have not built up antibodies and as a result our immune systems may have been inadvertently weakened.

This has prompted warnings of a potential surge in influenza as measures are lifted; data released this week by the UK’s Office of National Statistics show that in the week ending 11th June, 84 death certificates issued in England & Wales mentioned Covid, while 1,163 deaths involving flu and pneumonia were registered. Additionally, a recent study by the Houston Methodist Research Institute shows the rapid re-emergence of seasonal respiratory viruses following the relaxing of Covid-19 restrictions in Texas in March 2021.

This trend was also reported in a recent article in STAT, in which Trevor Bedford, a computational biologist who monitors which viruses are circulating via the Nextstrain service, was quoted as saying: “Just in the last month [May 2021] or so we’ve started to pick up small amounts of seasonal coronavirus, RSV, metapneumovirus, etc. It’s the first time since April 2020 where we’re starting to see other things circulating.”

There is particular concern that by the time universities, colleges, schools and nurseries reopen this autumn across the northern hemisphere, there will be perfect conditions for high transmission of seasonal respiratory viruses, particularly RSV (respiratory syncytial virus). Andrew Pavia, Chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the University of Utah, warned: “There will be two years’ worth of kids who are naïve to RSV, instead of one birth cohort. That could be fertile ground for a big RSV year.”

Epidemiologist Professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College, a member of the UK Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, said in a BBC interview that we must be prepared for a potentially “quite significant” flu epidemic and increased hospitalisations this winter. To help save National Health Service resources, researchers are investigating whether seasonal flu jabs and a Covid vaccine can be administered at the same time.

We are pleased to announce that our Eye Health report is now published and available to order! You can review case studies of key brands, NPD activity and much more. Plus, ensure you have registered for the free webinar on 30 June here to discuss the topline findings. For more information, please contact melissa.lee@NicholasHall.com.

Q1 2021 Results: CCA Round-up

Five of the Top 6 global CHC marketers have now reported their Q1 2021 results, and the clear common theme is a difficult start to the year as a result of the downturn in cough, cold & allergy sales. Global No.1 GSK reported that Consumer Healthcare sales were down 9% as a direct result of the year-on-year “pantry-loading” comparison, including accelerated purchases across all categories driven by the pandemic, combined with a historically weak cold & flu season. GSK’s Respiratory Health portfolio was down 42% in Q1, with Theraflu and Robitussin declining in double-digits, and Contac hit by a high single-digit fall, all adversely impacted by a lower cold & flu season.

Global No.2 J&J reported that Consumer Health worldwide operational sales were down 2.9%, primarily driven by negative prior-year comparisons related to Covid pantry loading in Q1 2020, mainly in OTC products, which declined by 14.8% in Q1 2021 as a result of lower cough, cold & flu incidences. This was partially offset by growth in Listerine mouthwash, Johnson’s baby care products, international skin health / beauty products and Nicorette sales outside the USA.

Sanofi’s Consumer Healthcare sales decreased by 7.3% in Q1 2021, primarily reflecting the weak cough / cold season, as well as a high base for comparison in Q1 2020 and divestments of non-core products. Allergy fell by 6.2%, while Cough & Cold sales were down 59.4% in Q1 2021. This heavy decline was offset by gains for Digestive Wellness (+14.6%), Physical Wellness and Mental Wellness (+18.8%) products. In USA and Rest of the World, growth of the Digestive and Mental Wellness categories partially offset lower Cough / Cold and Pain sales, but in Europe CHC sales fell by 19.3% in Q1.

Reckitt Q1 2021 net revenue was up 4.1% (like-for-like), and e-Commerce was +24%, accounting for 13% of total net revenue, driven by increased investment. Health fell 13.0%, reflecting a volume decline of 14.2% and price / mix improvements of 1.2%, as overall price growth was offset by relatively higher trade investment in North America. The OTC portfolio fell by just under 40%; in addition to challenging comparatives owing to significant pantry-loading in March 2020, this reflects an exceptionally weak cough, cold & flu season – estimated to be around 90% lower than the prior year – resulting in declines for Strepsils, Nurofen and Mucinex.

P&G’s Health Care organic sales were up 3% in Q1 2021, while Personal Health Care organic sales fell by mid-single digits, primarily owing to pandemic-related increases in consumer and retailer inventories in the base period and a weaker than average cough, cold & flu season. Representing 14% of global sales, e-Commerce sales increased by around 50% fiscal year-to-date, with no noticeable change in shopping trends in the quarter. CFO Andre Schulten said in an earnings call that a portion of the impact of commodity cost challenges in the next fiscal year would be offset with price increases in the baby care, feminine care and adult incontinence businesses, which will go into effect in mid-September 2021.

Celine Waller VP, DB6 comments: The poor CHC results reported were set against a robust performance in Q1 2020 when consumers were stockpiling ahead of lockdown restrictions (J&J’s OTC business increased operationally by 25.8% in Q1 2020!) and we expect that they will improve as the year goes on. However, 2021 is expected to be affected by a very weak cough / cold season as lockdowns (still in effect in many markets), social distancing, hygiene measures and mask-wearing continue to suppress incidence of respiratory illnesses, while there are some doubts about whether the high consumption levels of disinfectants and immune-boosting supplements can be sustained. As such, we have lowered our expectations of CHC growth in 2021 to 2.3% in the retail market. However, as highlighted in the P&G results, the 2020 boom in e-Commerce sales is continuing into the current year and we forecast that combined CHC sales in all channels will come out at a respectable 4.0% in 2021.

We are pleased to announce that our annual bestselling report, Nicholas Hall’s CHC Yearbook 2021, is now published digitally! You can analyse key players’ performance, hot topics, global retailing, the Top 15 markets and much more! Print copies will follow soon. For more information, or to order your copy, please contact melissa.lee@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

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.