Celltrion Inc. and Samsung Bioepis Co. show a significant growth in the global biosimilar medicine market but see poor performance in the domestic market.
According to industry sources on March 26, Celltrion posted 21.2 billion won (US$19.64 million) in sales in the domestic biosimilar market last year. The company sold 17 billion won (US$15.75 million) worth of its autoimmune disease biosimilar medicine “Remsima,” 2.8 billion won (US$2.59 million) of its blood cancer biosimilar “Truxima” and 1.4 billion won (US$1.3 million) of its breast cancer biosimilar “Herzuma.”
Samsung Bioepis showed lower sales in the domestic market last year. The company sold 740 million won (US$685,503) worth of its autoimmune disease biosimilar medicine “Brenzys” and only 6 million won (US$5,558) of its another autoimmune disease biosimilar “Renflexis.” Its breast cancer biosimilar “Samfenet,” which received marketing approval from the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety at the end of last year, has begun selling from the beginning of this year so it has been excluded from sales.
By contrast, the sales of Johnson & Johnson's “Remicade”, the original patented medicine of Remsima and Renflexis, reached 37.7 billion won (US$34.92 million) in South Korea alone last year. The sales of Celltrion’s Remsima remained at the 45 percent level of Remicade’s, while that of Samsung Bioepis’ Renflexis stood at 0.01 percent level. Considering the fact that South Korean patients has a high level of preference for original biomedicines, the two companies still had lower sales than expected.
Celltrion and Samsung Bioepis showed a stark contrast in the global market. Pfizer Inc., a multinational pharmaceutical firm that sells Remsima in North America and Europe, sold US$418 million (452.31 billion won) worth of Remsima last year, up a whopping 118 percent from 2016. The sales of Remsima in the U.S. market jumped from US$4 million (4.32 billion won) to US$118 million (127.38 billion won) over the same period. With Remsima seeing an increase in sales, the sales of Remicade in the U.S. dropped 6.5 percent compared to a year ago.
The sales of Samsung Bioepis’ Brenzys in the global market also grew as much as 269 percent to US$370.7 million (400.17 billion won) last year. Brenzys is the world’s first biosimilar for Pfizer's autoimmune disease medicine “Enbrel.” As Brenzys has been selling, the sales of Enbrel in Europe stood at US$1.41 billion (1.5 trillion won) last year, down 24 percent from a year earlier.
Although Celltrion and Samsung Bioepis posted much lower sales in the domestic market than the global market, the two companies cannot give up on the domestic market. This is because the two can improve their brand value in the global market further only when they strengthen their positions as the birthplace of biosimilars and boost their share in the domestic market at the same time.
Celltrion is seeking to target the market by granting the exclusive global distribution rights for biosimilars to Celltrion Healthcare Co. and the domestic distribution rights to Celltrion Pharm Inc. Samsung Bioepis also ended the partnership with multinational pharmaceutical firm MSD, which had the exclusive distribution rights in the domestic market, and joined hands with domestic pharmaceutical companies – Yuhan Corp. and Daewoong Pharm Co. Recently, the company is even considering the change of their main biosimilar products – Renflexis and Brenzys – in order to expand the share in the domestic market.