Empty hard capsules (EHCs) are an effective alternative to the traditionally used tablet dosage forms in the pharmaceutical and nutrition industries. Despite having some disadvantages, such as higher costs and advanced technical requirements for manufacturing, hard capsules provide better dosage options for hygroscopic drugs, greater patient compliance, and are versatile dosage forms. Consequently, hard capsules were the second-leading oral solid-dosage form worldwide in 2020, after tablets.
In terms of units, China was the largest market for EHCs, followed by India and the United States. These three markets collectively accounted for almost 60% of the global EHC unit demand. The Asian markets such as India and Pakistan witnessed an especially high rate of growth. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, had an impact on the different regional markets for EHCs, to varying degrees. The nutrition sector in most regional markets grew significantly. This was primarily due to the increase in demand for immunity-boosting nutraceuticals, which are formulated in capsule form. In contrast, sectors such as prescription drugs saw a drop in demand. The level of demand differed from one country to another and from sector to sector in 2020.
For example, the pharmaceutical industry in the United States led the world in terms of production and revenue generation. The U.S. pharmaceuticals demand, however, dropped in 2020 due to people’s reluctance to visit hospitals or doctors during the pandemic. This led to a significant decrease in sales of prescription drugs, including those formulated in capsules. The OTC segment performed only slightly better. At the same time, demand for dietary supplements and immunity boosters increased dramatically, fueling the demand for capsules. Industry growth will continue to be driven by the nutrition segment and an increase in local manufacturing, among other trends.
China was the second–leading pharmaceuticals market in 2020. COVID-19 had a negative impact on the overall capsule demand in China between 2019 and 2020, particularly due to the restriction on retail sales of drugs for colds and the significantly reduced number of hospital visits in the first half of 2020. Sales of capsules for nutritional supplements, however, witnessed some growth. This was due to the increasing awareness of immunity boosters in China. The EHC market in China will benefit from the government’s support to the local pharmaceutical companies, the nutritional supplements segment, and the increase in disposable income in the country. This will lead to a greater number of drugs being affordable to populations in China’s less–developed regions.
In the Indian pharmaceutical sector, the demand for capsules increased significantly during the year. This was due to the country being pushed to boost its production of generic drugs catering to both domestic and export demand, following the nation’s lockdown period of several months.
Going forward, a slow trend favoring the use of contract manufacturing organizations (CMOs) in the industry is expected. This will lead to slightly higher growth in the demand for capsules from the CMOs compared to from the brands directly.
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