Chuck the pill, as pharma industry toys with gummies

Gummies acquired popularity in India during the Covid-19 days

Gummies-Canada Representational image

The era of popping that bitter pill might just be on its way out, if this new trend in the drug world takes hold. Gummies, or gummy bears, those chewable jelly fruit candies popular with kids and adults alike, could well be the new medium.

“There has been a growing interest from Indian pharma majors in releasing products in gummy bear format,” said Sanjeev Jain, joint managing director of Akums Pharma, India’s biggest contract pharma company. “Gummy bears are seen as a fun and easy way to take supplements, and they are especially popular among children and young adults.”

The reason is not far to seek. Unlike bitter pills or big tablets and their aftertaste, gummies are sweet, and easier to use. Children, particularly, who otherwise make a face when faced with pills or other medicines, wouldn’t mind a gummy bear, even if it holds a medicine inside.

Gummies acquired popularity in India during the Covid-19 days and months, when consumers in search of immunity boosters and extra minerals and supplements turned to the many nutraceutical products in the market in gummy bear format. Gummy bears came out of nowhere and hit nearly three per cent of the Indian nutraceutical market in 2020, valued at 3.92 billion dollars.

Many leading pharma majors in India have now set their eyes on the gummy format for medicines as well. This range from Dr Reddy’s, which launched a range of nutraceuticals aimed at children recently. Power Gummies, a direct-to-consumer firm, recently invested 2 million dollars to set up a manufacturing plant near Gurugram to meet surging demand for supplements. Others include the likes of Abbot, ManMatters and BodyWise.

“The future of gummies in India is promising,” said Jain, “(They) have revolutionised this landscape by providing a more enjoyable and palatable alternative (to)…pills and capsules which would be challenging for some individuals to incorporate into their lifestyles.”

While gummies are presently used for neutraceuticals, ranging from multi-vitamins to minerals, probiotics and energy boosters, it may just be a matter of time before gummies are used for medicinal drugs, as well.

“There has been a growing interest from Indian pharma majors in releasing products in the gummy bear format,” said Jain. Akums itself is expanding its gummies portfolio, expanding its R&D and manufacturing facility as well as introducing what Jain calls a ‘first-of-its-kind milestone’, next-gen gummies.

Not that there aren't challenges. Ensuring the stability of drugs in the gummy matrix will be tough, besides achieving consistent and accurate dosage. The latter is tougher in gummies as compared to pills.

“Ensuring uniform distribution of the active ingredient throughout the gummy and maintaining precise dosing is crucial,” points out Jain. All this, of course, makes gummies more expensive than traditional tablets and capsules. Then there is the aspect of getting regulatory approvals, which can take long.

Despite this, gummies could well be the next big thing on India’s drug scene. “Close collaboration between pharmaceutical companies, regulatory authorities and healthcare professionals will ensure the safe and effective use of gummies as a medicine dispensing format in India,” said Jain.

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