New regulations restricting the sale of codeine to a prescription only medication has left retailers and manufacturers with a keen interest in the future trends in analgesics. In 2017 codeine was worth $170 million dollars, making up 20% of the analgesics industry. Understanding where this value may move to is key for the pharmaceutical industry in the coming year and beyond.
However, Nielsen research findings show that codeine sales have been in decline for the last three years before the regulation went into effect. Nielsen and IQVIA Scantrack data from 2015 to year-end 2017 show the sales decreasing at -8.7% and -10.4% respectively. This decline could be attributed to pharmacies putting less codeine based products on the shelf, and the 8% rise in the price of codeine over the last few years making it expensive for consumers to purchase.
Interestingly, it has been lower income households who are more likely to move away from purchasing codeine-based products, with the data showing an increase in higher income individuals still buying codeine products during this period.
The research also finds that analgesics buyers are more likely to be couples and singles who do not have children. This is reflected in the demographics of the core codeine buyer, who are most likely to be single member households, of which the occupant is over 35 years of age. Understanding the behaviour of this key group will be integral to unlocking where these sales could shift to in the future. More broadly over the last few years, there has been a shift to more households purchasing paracetamol based products. Whether consumers continue to move into alternate ingredients will determine the performance of analgesics.