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Table of Contents
ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year : 2021  |  Volume : 9  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 191-195

A survey among Ayurveda wholesalers and retailers in Pune city for understanding the demand for Ayurvedic medicines during the COVID-19 pandemic


1 Regional Ayurveda Research Institute (CCRAS), Pune, Maharashtra, India
2 Department of Agad Tantra, SDM College of Ayurveda, Bangalore, Karnataka, India
3 Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Sciences, Ministry of AYUSH, Government of India, New Delhi, India

Date of Submission13-May-2021
Date of Decision19-Jul-2021
Date of Acceptance25-Jul-2021
Date of Web Publication28-Sep-2021

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Rasika Kolhe
Regional Ayurveda Research Institute, Kothrud, Pune, Maharashtra.
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/JISM.JISM_42_21

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  Abstract 

Background: After the outbreak of Covid-19, a set of guidelines for boosting immunity and self-care measures were promoted by the Ayurveda, Yoga, Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha Sowa Riga, and Homeopathy (AYUSH) department. Pune has surpassed many metro cities of India and is recognized as one of the worst-hit places of Covid-19. Ayurveda is very popular among the citizens of Pune, but there is a lack of systematic data regarding the demand for Ayurveda products and the impact of the pandemic on the sales of Ayurveda medicines. Objective: This survey was planned to collect information from Ayurveda medicine retailers regarding the trends in the usage and demand for Ayurveda medicines among the citizens of Pune in the background of Covid-19. Materials and Methods: It was a semi-structured questionnaire-based survey study consisting of 43 questions to assess the demand for Ayurveda medicines during the Covid-19 pandemic in Pune city. The study was conducted from August 2020 to September 2020, and the respondents were selected by the convenience sampling method. Data were collected from a total of 33 respondents (retailers and wholesalers of Ayurveda medicine). Analysis: The data of the completed questionnaire were systematically summarized in Microsoft excel sheet 2007, and descriptive analysis, including percentages, was used. Result: The survey shows that certain raw herbs such as Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera L.), Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia Miers), and finished products such as AYUSH Kwatha (Formulation to be prepared as a decoction), Chyavanprasha were in high demand during the Covid-19 outbreak. However, the demand for Amritarishta, Guduchi Ghana Vati, and Ashwagandha tablet was also high. Conclusion: These preliminary data of the survey study demonstrate the need for conducting similar studies in larger sample sizes across the country, which would enable the concerned authorities to frame policies.

Keywords: Ayurveda medicines, AYUSH, corona, over the counter, trend


How to cite this article:
Kolhe R, Pushpan R, Prasad GP, Gurav A, Srikanth N. A survey among Ayurveda wholesalers and retailers in Pune city for understanding the demand for Ayurvedic medicines during the COVID-19 pandemic. J Indian Sys Medicine 2021;9:191-5

How to cite this URL:
Kolhe R, Pushpan R, Prasad GP, Gurav A, Srikanth N. A survey among Ayurveda wholesalers and retailers in Pune city for understanding the demand for Ayurvedic medicines during the COVID-19 pandemic. J Indian Sys Medicine [serial online] 2021 [cited 2021 Dec 2];9:191-5. Available from: https://www.joinsysmed.com/text.asp?2021/9/3/191/326839




  Introduction Top


In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the medical community worldwide is relentlessly working toward developing effective pharmacotherapeutics. The complexities of management of the illness tend to be limited in modern medicine, whereas the dynamic appraisal of evidence concerning the same has widened the scope of AYUSH at the national level.[1] Traditional medical systems such as Ayurveda have an equal opportunity owing to the practice-based evidence-building strategy.[2] The Ministry of AYUSH has taken up this opportunity to utilize the vast potential of Ayurveda, releasing a set of guidelines for boosting immunity and self-care measures based on Ayurveda principles and resulting in a surge in the demand for Ayurvedic medicine.[3]

Chyavanaprash, Sanshamani Vati (tablet), and AYUSH Kwatha (Formulation to be prepared as a decoction) are a few formulations; Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia Miers.), Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera L.), Yashtimadhu (Glycyrrhiza glabra L.), Tulasi (Ocimum sanctum L.), Indian spices such as turmeric (Curcuma longa L.), ginger (Zingiber officinalis Roscoe.), pepper (Piper nigrum L.), coriander seeds (Coriandrum sativum L.), and Cinnamon sticks (Cinnamomum verum J. Presl.) are single herbs recommended by the AYUSH ministry in its guidelines.[4] The print, visual, and electronic media have also been disseminating these Ayurveda practices persistently for preventing infection and for immunomodulation. Maharashtra is one of the worst-hit states in the country by the Covid-19. Among its cities, Pune has surpassed Mumbai, with more reported Covid cases. Ayurveda is quite popular among the citizens of Pune as per a previous survey.[5] However, there is a paucity of data on the demand for Ayurveda medicine among the health seekers during the ongoing pandemic though it is generally thought that more households may be using it. This study is a preliminary attempt to collect information from Ayurveda medicine retailers regarding the trends in the usage and demand for Ayurveda medicines among the citizens of Pune in the background of Covid-19.


  Materials and Methods Top


It was a questionnaire-based survey study conducted by the researchers in Pune city from August 2020 to September 2020. A list of all Ayurveda medicine wholesalers and retailers with their addresses in the Pune municipality region was obtained from an authorized Ayurvedic retailer’s association member of Pune. Due to the pandemic situation, convenience sampling was done for the selection of respondents. Private practitioners having small manufacturing units and farmers or cultivators who directly supply raw materials were excluded. Before conducting and recording the data, the aim and objectives of the study were explained verbally in the language of the participant’s understanding by the interviewer and written informed consent was obtained from each of the participants. Considering the objectives of the study, a semi-structured questionnaire was prepared first in English and then it was checked by three subject experts to assess the study objective. Inputs of the experts were incorporated into the final questionnaire prepared in three languages, that is, Marathi, Hindi, and English. The final questionnaire has 43 questions consisting of three parts. The first part was related to the demographic information of the participants, consisting of six questions. The second part addressed questions related to the demand, sales, and impact of the Covid pandemic on Ayurveda medicines sales before the pandemic and during April–July 2020. For the assessment of the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak on demand and sales, a Likert scale (strongly agree, agree, uncertain, disagree, and strongly disagree) was used. A total of 28 questions were included in this part; whereas a total of nine questions pertaining to the assessment of the outlook of the people while buying Ayurvedic products were also part of the questionnaire. The data were collected by in-person interviews by approaching 57 participants. The data of the completed questionnaire were systematically summarized in Microsoft excel sheet 2007 and to describe the distribution of the responses, descriptive analysis, including percentages, was used.


  Results Top


Out of the total respondents contacted for the study, 31 respondents complied well and shared the information required for the survey study whereas two respondents completed the questionnaires and replied via email. Finally, 33 complete questionnaires were used for data analysis.

Out of the 33 Ayurveda shops surveyed in Pune city, seven were wholesalers; five were distributors of specific brands (Patanjali, Himalaya, etc.) selling medicines of respective brands; and the remaining had retailer shops. Raw drugs, classical preparation, proprietary medicine, and medicines of specific brands were available for sale in retail shops; whereas exclusive raw drugs were sold in the wholesaler shops situated in the old parts of the city. The maximum Ayurvedic pharmacies or wholesale shops (n = 21) were observed to be predominantly ancestral businesses.

A good number of respondents (n = 16) confirmed that they underwent formal training to run the shops, and the maximum number of respondents were graduates. Overall, 15 shops had been running the business for more than 20 years. Approximately 23 shops were stand-alone ones with no branches or franchises. Along with that, being the center of education, there are many Ayurveda distributors slowly establishing a strong footing, and additionally, franchises of big brands such as Patanjali, Himalaya etc. are emerging enormously. Therefore, it was pertinent to gather data from such varied distributors of Ayurveda medicine to study the impact of Covid-19 on the demand of Ayurveda medicine.

Understanding the Demand for Ayurveda Medications During the Covid-19 Outbreak

Among the respondents, at least one-third confirmed a 20%–30% growth in the sales of Ayurveda medicine after the Covid-19 outbreak. Everybody opined that immunobooster medicines were in high demand after the outbreak of Covid-19, and approximately 10 respondents reported an increase in the demand and sales for specific respiratory system medicines [Table 1]. Medicines for arthritis or joint pain and abdominal discomfort were in high demand according to 28 respondents before the Covid-19 outbreak from December 2019 to March 2020. There is a remarkable change in the demand for medicines after the Covid-19 outbreak. However, the demand for Ayurveda medicines for osteoarthritis, abdominal discomfort, etc. was affected due to lockdown and the pandemic.
Table 1: Showing the response received from the participants during the survey study

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The demand for AYUSH Kwatha, oil for Nasya (medication through nasal route), and oil pulling could not be evaluated from the outlets of specific brands such as Patanjali, Himalaya where these products were not available whereas the demand for health drinks and sanitizers could not be answered by the wholesalers of the Ayurveda medicines, who did not have the stock of such products. Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia Miers.), Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera L.), and Tulasi(Ocimum tenuiflorum L.) were the most demanded raw drugs; these are known to have immunomodulation properties, and they are being explored through different clinical trials held in India.[6]Amritarishta, Guduchi Ghana Vati, and Ashwagandha tablet were three medicines in high demand besides Chyavanaprasha and AYUSH Kwatha among consumers from April 2020 to July 2020; whereas Guduchi, Ashwagandha, and Mahasudarshan Kadha (Decoction) were the most purchased medicines by Ayurveda practitioners as per the opinion of 16 participants.

Participants were enquired about their experience on the demand and the stock of Ayurveda medicine. The maximum (n = 30) stated an increased demand in Ayurveda medicine in the year 2020 (April–July) as compared with the sales of the previous year, during the same duration (April–July 2019). A maximum of 25 respondents stated that they had reordered their stock in the past four months, twice (n = 4) and thrice (n = 8). Participants were also enquired about the problems they were facing in getting the required stocks of medicines. The maximum (n = 20) participants opined that they were experiencing a shortage of stock for Chyavanaprasha and Ashwagandha tablets from April to July 2020.

Understanding the Trends in Ayurveda Medicine Purchase

Customers predominantly prefer to buy tablets followed by medicated decoctions and powders, as responded to by 26, 16, and 14 respondents, respectively. Brand name influenced the consumers in selecting medicines; whereas ingredients and the publicity are the lookouts of the customers while buying medicines as per the responses of at least half of the respondents.

The participants of the study observed that consumers seek their advice and help to buy Ayurveda medicines over the counter. Medicines are mostly purchased by customers without a prescription (23 respondents) but there are customers who always procure Ayurveda medicines with a prescription as recorded by 10 participants. A positive response was also received for the increased OTC sale of Ayurveda medicine by 28 participants; however, it was stated as increased by 20%–30% by a maximum of 14 respondents. Participants were also enquired about their opinion on the reasons for increased demand for Ayurveda medicine. The prime minister of India has detailed a series of precautions to be taken by the public during this pandemic and also recommended adopting the advisory of the AYUSH Ministry for preventive aspects and boosting immunity.[7] A maximum of 25 participants strongly agreed on the impact of the appeal of the AYUSH ministry on the demand for Ayurveda medicine, whereas 20 respondents strongly agreed on a statement that the safety of Ayurveda medicine and the unavailability of any concurrent medicine for Covid-19 is the reason for the demand of Ayurveda medicine.

The impact of social media and advertisements on the sale of Ayurveda medicines was strongly considered by 16 participants, whereas the immune enhancer activities of Ayurvedic medicines were accepted by 14 participants. A maximum of 21 participants disagreed with the statement that Ayurveda medicines are cheap.

It was reported that people do opt for Ayurveda medicine to avoid any side effects, prevent disease, improve the quality of life, mitigate symptoms, reduce the dosage of strong allopathic medicine, etc. However, this demand increased remarkably after the outbreak of COVID-19. The appeal of the Ministry of AYUSH on the recommendation of Ayurveda measures for the prevention of diseases and use of mass media, posters, and banners, especially for immunobooster medicines such as AYUSH Kwatha, Chyavanaprasha, etc., have a direct relationship with an increase in the demand for Ayurveda products.


  Discussion Top


Relevant Data of Increased Demand for Ayurveda Medicine

Increased demand for Ayurveda medicines recommended by the Ministry of AYUSH is well recognized and appreciated in India, as evident through various news and authorities. Exports of Ayurveda products as well as spices such as turmeric, ginger etc. are increased.[8] The Ministry of AYUSH has also developed the “AYUSHSanjivani” mobile application for understanding the response of the public for AYUSH guidelines during the COVID-19 situation,[9] and data on 723,459 respondents showed that 616,295 (85.2%) had been using AYUSH measures, for the maintenance of health during the COVID-19 pandemic. In this study also, maximum responses were recorded from Maharashtra.[10] This result also supported a similar observation across the different geographical zones of India and revealed the preference of the common people for the use of Ayurveda medicine during the pandemic. An official of AYUSH ministry also reported sales of INR 696 million from January to August 2020, up from INR 267.3 million the previous year. It also stated that the sales of Ayurveda medicines such as Guduchi ghan Vati, Anu Taila, Mahasudarshan Ghan Vati, Ashwagandha, Tulsi, and others increased by 400%. Moreover, the demand for Tribhuvankirti Rasa, Mahalaxmi Vilas Rasa, Laghumalini Vasant Rasa, Suvarnamalini Vasant Rasa, and those listed in the MoA’s guidelines for respiratory problems have also seen growth in sales. A consumer market research group reported 283% growth in the sales of Chyawanprash across the industry during April–June 2020.[11]

This survey study provides more precise and practical data to measure the result of consumers’ demands and approaches. A combination of both will enhance the outcome of the objectives and it will give realistic conclusions that would help the policymakers for standardizing and streamlining the Ayurveda medicinal system.

The prime sources of information about Ayurveda medicines and brands are retail stores, posters, banners, and mass media. The OTC pharmaceutical market includes nonprescription medicines that are sold directly to consumers through pharmacies, drugstores, convenience stores, and grocery stores. Demographic trends, lifestyle changes, growing economy, affordability, and awareness about self-medication are driving the OTC market in emerging countries.

Limitation of the Study

In this preliminary survey study, a questionnaire was formed in a way to get the overall status of the demand for Ayurveda medicines based on the observation during the study period. During the study period, wholesalers and retailers were working with a limited team due to the situation of lockdown and the peak of Covid-19 in Pune, which resulted in a lower response rate from the respondents to participate in the survey. Due to the pandemic-like situation, and inadequacy of time, there was a constraint to reach every Ayurveda pharmacist throughout Pune city, and hence convenient sampling was used for the selection of shops. Moreover, collective information of all the Ayurveda pharmacists, distributors, and wholesalers was also not available. Hence the sample size could be 33 only; so to generalize the results, there is a high need to conduct such kinds of studies across the country to get an overall idea of the demand and supply of Ayurveda medicine. The demand for Ayurveda medicine would be more if available at proximate shops with a large scale and variability of medicine.


  Conclusion Top


The present survey made it possible to get an overview of the demand for Ayurveda medicine, especially immunobooster medicine after the Corona outbreak, as reported by the sellers of Pune, Maharashtra during the Covid-19 outbreak in India. Findings of the current survey demonstrate the need for conducting similar studies in larger sample sizes across the country to frame policies by the concerned authorities for the active promotion of cultivation, manufacture, sales, distribution, and usage of Ayurveda medicines by the community toward protection against Covid-19.

Acknowledgment

The authors are grateful to the Director General, CCRAS, Ministry of AYUSH for their support and facilities. They are also grateful to Dr. Rabinarayan Acharya and Dr. Supriya Bhalerao for their valuable inputs in validating questionnaires and for the improvement of this article.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
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