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Sales of multivitamins and immunity boosters saw a jump in April and May, especially on online pharmacy platforms, as wary customers rushed to shield themselves from covid-19.

In the bid to boost immunity multivitamins outperformed other segments, said online pharmacies, which witnessed a sharp jump in sales.

“We saw an increase in demand for immunity boosters & multivitamins during the lockdown, especially during the starting few weeks. We also saw an increase in brands & distributors reaching out to us to list their products," Pradeep Dadha, Founder and chief executive officer of netmeds.com, told Mint.

Netmeds saw a 119% growth in sales of multivitamins during April and May as compared to February and March, the two months preceding the lockdown, while that of other immunity boosters, which includes fish oil and Ayuvedic products like chyawanprash, witnessed a growth of about 47% in the months of April & May, Dadha said.

Other online portals also saw similar growth, with Netmeds and 1mg even creating dedicated tabs for covid-19 supplements on their portals.

A spokesperson for 1mg said that they have seen strong demand for Limcee, Zincovit and Revital on their platform, with ayurvedic products from Dabur India, Swadeshi, Organic India and Purayatihave also seeing a surge.

Brick and mortar pharmacies also saw strong demand for multivitamins and nutritional supplement but these mostly tapered off in May due to overstocking in April and as customers realised that pharmacies were open throughout the lockdown.

“In April, there was a shortage of vitamin C tablets and even other vitamins and multivitamins were seeing high demand because people wanted to improve their immunity from covid-19. But this demand was lower in May across the pharmaceutical market, including multivitamins, due to overstocking before," said J.S. Shinde, president of All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD).

According to market research firm AIOCD-AWACS, which looks at data primarily at stockists’ level, despite a decline in the overall pharmaceutical market, sales of vitamins, minerals and nutrients were better. In April, sales of the segment were down 11.5% as compared to March while the overall pharmaceutical sales were down 14%.

While multivitamins and immunity boosters are seeing strong sales online, concern over their quality and effectiveness remain, especially as regulatory framework covering them is ambiguous.

Most companies that sell multivitamins categorise their product as health supplements under the Food Safety and Standards Act and avoid the more onerous regulations under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, leading to concerns over quality.

“Anything, like vitamins or Ayurvedic products, which are proven to increase immunity against diseases, will boost immunity against covid-19. The problem is there are so many things in the market that are promoted for it, nobody really knows whether it improves immunity or not, and that is the biggest concern," said Ram Shankar Mishra, director of internal medicine at Max Super Speciality Hospital in Saket.

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