Heatwave Impact: ORS sales up by 20%, 6.8 crore sachets sold in May

New Delhi: The sales of dehydration-preventing drink Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS) have zoomed due to the intense heatwave in the country. By May, the sales had spiked by over 20 per cent compared to last year, according to data by Pharmatrac.

ORS helps in the recovery of loss of excessive water and electrolytes due to high temperatures and diarrhoea. The ORS market has a seasonal trend wherein consumption increases from February as the temperatures soar. While monsoons are set in June and July, the consumption stays on the higher side as a lot of water-borne diseases are set in monsoons leading to ailments like dysentery and diarrhoea which also need oral electrolyte consumption during treatment, News18 reported quoting a Pharmatrac spokesperson.

Although temperatures in India typically reach their highest in May and June, this season has seen more than twice the usual number of heatwave days in the northwestern and eastern regions. Parts of the country have reached new record highs where two areas in Delhi also recorded 49.9 degrees Celsius the day before, marking an all-time high for the city, the report added.

According to data, in May this year, the market sold 6.8 crore sachets of ORS solution worth Rs 84 crore. In comparison, last year, it sold 5.8 crore units in May, worth Rs 69 crore. The moving annual turnover (MAT) of ORS has more than doubled in the last four years. The moving annual turnover (MAT) for May 2020 stood at Rs 334 crore which swelled to Rs 716 crore in May 2024 – more than doubled. Whereas in last May, MAT stood at Rs 583 crore.

A Lancet editorial in 1978 termed ORS as “potentially the most important medical advance this century.” It does not require expertise or medical knowledge and saves lives even in remote parts of the world with no healthcare access.

Explaining the mechanism of how ORS works, Dr Rajeev Jayadevan told News18 that the composition of the solution helps the body absorb vital electrolytes, energy and water all at the same time. “It is like getting a full-fledged IV drip. The mechanism is a sodium-glucose co-transporter in the gut, that carries one molecule of glucose with every molecule of sodium that’s absorbed.”

However, Dr Yatin Mehta from Medanta advises caution in certain cases. Chairman at the Institute of Critical Care and Anaesthesiology at Medanta, Gurugram, Dr Mehta told News18 that ORS should be alternated with plain water or coconut water. “Also if you have significant heart disease, kidney disease or electrolyte disturbances, check with your doctor before consuming. Also, you should take only in small but frequent amounts,” he added.

Echoing similar concerns, Dr Sumit Ray, medical director at Holy Family Hospital, New Delhi, told News18 that excessive ORS can increase or decrease sodium in the body, depending on how much of it is taken along with which other fluid.

“It also has potassium, and those with some forms of kidney disease may get high potassium levels from an inability to excrete the excess potassium. It also contains glucose and this can cause high sugar levels in diabetics if taken in inappropriately high amounts,” Ray was quoted as saying.

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