After the second wave of COVID that required drug cocktails, medical oxygen and ventilators, the third wave has been relatively milder. The Omicron variant mostly causes fever and sore throat, triggering a sharp hike in the sales of Dolo-650, India’s ‘favourite’ medicine currently.
For a population that’s wary of the pandemic and yet would avoid getting tested for COVID at any cost, Dolo-650 is the panacea. At the very hint of a sore throat, body ache, headache or fever, Indians are popping the pill despite warnings from medical professionals.
All this has led to a huge demand for paracetamol manufactured by Bengaluru-based Micro Labs. It hit a feverish pitch in December, gaining it a 57% share of the paracetamol market. Selling over 350 crore pills, the drug has witnessed sales of ₹567 crore since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, said media reports.
Between 500 mg and 650 mg
Dolo-650 is a marketing case study in spotting the gap and leveraging it. Micro Labs found a gap in fever management in India, despite the popularity of pills such as Crocin, Calpol and Metacin. While 500 mg of paracetamol addressed fever and body pain, it was often inadequate. On the other hand, 1000 mg (or two 500 mg tablets) was too ‘heavy’.
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Combinations of paracetamol and ibuprofen were highly effective against the symptoms, but came with so many side-effects that both doctors and drug regulators frowned on them. Hence, Micro Labs went for pure-play paracetamol, but a right-sized one — 650 mg — and launched it in 1993.
In an interview with MoneyControl, Dilip Surana, Chairman and Managing Director at Micro Labs, spoke of how the tablet was given its oval shape — it was “ergonomically designed” to facilitate easy swallowing. For decades now, the drug has been one of India’s largest selling paracetamol pills.
Social media popularity
Social media has been replete with Dolo-650 memes, which mostly present the drug as a superhero that can address almost any symptom, the ‘national drug’, the country’s ‘favourite snack’, and one that Indians ‘buy in kilos’.
While these are just humorous on the surface, experts warn that they could be influencing people to take medicines without medical supervision. It may be noted that Indians do have a tradition of indulging in self-medication.