Pharmacies sell lesser colds and flu meds as country records reduced infections this winter

By Loveness Nyathi

Lower flu infections saw pharmacies remaining with more flu medical stocks than usual as fewer people caught the viral disease this year.

Winter usually sees a spike in colds and flue cases, but this year it was different as the threat of the novel coronavirus saw an upsurge in preventative measures.

Pharmacists that spoke to Amakhosikazi media said there was reduced sales in terms of over the counter medicines to treat flue and colds which has left many chemists holding on to huge stock.

Pharmacists attributed the low sales to fewer people getting the disease due to masking and more than usual sanitisation practices.

Former President of Pharmaceutical Society of Zimbabwe, Mr Sikhumbuzo Mpofu said there was generally a depressed demand at pharmacies for most medications.

“We incurred massive losses not only on flues, colds and cough remedies but across the whole spectrum of medicines due to low demand. 

“As there were reduced hospital visits, to surgeries and clinics we believe there could have been an increased reliance on alternative medicines.

“There are always winter promotions which are aimed at encouraging us to stock for winter, but having done that this season demand is estimated to have gone down by more than 60%,” he said.

Mr Mpofu said restrictions in movement, the fact that people were also taking better care of themselves and less crowding reduced the spread of isolated cases of flue.

Flues and colds medications that are usually in high demand during winter include cough mixtures, decongestants, pain relief pills and multivitamins.

Pharmaceutical Society of Zimbabwe Southern Region chairperson Ms. Cynthia Sibanda concurred with Mpofu but added they were able to offset some losses through increased sales in preventive medicine.

She said prior to the Covid-19 people were not serious on taking preventive medicines but the threat of the pandemic saw a change in attitude.

“Yes, there was a reduction in over the counter flu medication sales but there was an increase in sales of preventive medicines unlike in previous years.

“Prior the pandemic people were not really taking preventive measures seriously as the ordinary flu bug is not that lethal but with the advent of the Covid-19 threat, attitudes changed with most adhering to prevention rather waiting for the cure.

“So, we could say the low sales in flues and colds medications were offset by the mostly vitamin supplement sales during the period,” said Ms. Sibanda.

Another local practicing pharmacist, Mr Dunken Hadebe said there was a massive red balance in flu and colds medicines volumes reduced traffic in over the counter sales.

“Yes, it's true, we saw a marked reduction in flue and colds medication sales but we had already stocked up on medications, even manufacturers had not been expecting the marked reduction and they had ramped up production. 

“Revenues were certainly low on that front but we managed to sell other medicines,” he said.

Mr Hadebe said the attitude change towards prevention could have resulted in the reduction of flue and colds cases.

He said in previous instances people would not bother getting the flu vaccine only doing so to avoid a second bout.