34% fewer flu cases in 2020
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The number of flu cases and suspicions in 2020 was the lowest in Poland since 2015, and amounted to 3.2 million cases. The highest number of cases was recorded in February 2020 and at that time the decrease compared to the same period in 2019 was at the level of 2.7%. However, the highest decline – at 81.3% – came in June.
Less disease as a result of COVID-19?
The number of flu cases (along with suspected flu) has been increasing in Poland for many years. The year 2019 brought a slight deceleration of the upward trend. In 2020, the number of flu cases, according to PZH data, fell again and this was a significant decrease from 4.8 million cases in 2019 to 3.2 million in 2020.
Certainly, one of the reasons for the lower number of flu cases in 2020 is the prolonged state of social isolation experienced last year as a result of the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, which greatly reduced the possibility of spreading the flu virus. Let us remember, however, that the pandemic also brought about a significant fall in the number of visits to doctors and an increase in the importance of self-treatment. This therefore contributed to a significantly lower number of cases of flu reported by doctors. The decrease in flu cases from 2019 may also be influenced by an increase in vaccination rates. All due to the inclusion of the flu vaccine in the reimbursement under the Medicines 75+ programme. Until now, according to GIS data, only around 4% of Poles have been vaccinated against flu.
Drop in flu cases has not reduced OTC purchases in pharmacies?
In 2020, OTC products used for cold and flu were very popular, especially in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is worth noting that COVID-19, even if it subsides, may permanently change the behaviour of Poles and create a psychological need to have cold and flu products in home medicine cabinets. In the longer term, however, the market may slow down as a result of a high base, an increase in the proportion of Poles undergoing preventive vaccinations and the development of habits in society which limit the spread of viral infections. According to PMR data, between 2020 and 2025 the market for OTC cold and flu products (medicines and dietary supplements) will grow at an average annual rate of 4.5%.
Moreover, the category of immune-boosting products is worth noting. The value of sales in this category, according to estimates of PEX PharmaSequence, could amount to PLN 734.1m, which represents an increase of nearly 2%. It is worth noting that this category is expected to grow by another 6% in 2021.