Last year, two out of three biosimilars sold worldwide were domestic products, according to a report released by IQVIA, a medicine market research company, on April 4.
The report says global revenues of top four biosimilar medicines amounted to 2.65 trillion won (US$2.38 billion) in 2017. Of the total, South Korean products accounted for 1.76 trillion won (US$1.58 billion), or 66.4 percent.
Domestic biosimilar products led the market in each of the four sectors. In particular, Korean products dominated the Remicade sector with a market share of 99 percent. The global sales of Remicade, a biosimilar of Janssen-produced autoimmune disorder medicine, reached 1.15 trillion won (US$1.03 billion) last year, of which Korean products accounted for 1.14 trillion won (US$1.02 billion).
Remsima, the world’s first Remicade biosimilar developed by Celltrion, led the market while Benepali of Samsung Bioepis and GS071 of Aprogen also performed well in their own sectors.
Samsung Bioepis put up a good show in selling a biosimilar of Pfizer-produced autoimmune disorder drug Enbrel. The company’s Benepali recorded 531.8 billion won (US$478 million) in sales, accounting for 98.4% of the global Enbrel biosimilar sales. The company attributed the impressive performance to its ‘first move’ strategy.
Celltrion’s Truxima, the world’s first biosimilar of Roche-developed hematological cancer medicine Rituxan, garnered a 73.9 percent market share. Its sales continued to grow in the European market, leaving the second movers far behind in the race. The success of Truxima results from its excellent efficacy, which was proved in the clinical tests.
However, there is no domestic company that produces a biosimilar of Sanofi-developed diabetes drug Lantus, as domestic bio companies have focused on autoimmune disorder drugs, a sector where entry barriers are relatively low. Domestic bio companies need to enter this sector soon as its market is much bigger than others. Last year the sales of Lantus reached 14 trillion won (US$12.6 billion).
Although the global biosimilar market showed a steep growth curve, original medications are still dominant in total sales. The sales of the top four original biomedicines reached 44.6 trillion won (US$40.1 billion) in 2017, much bigger than the 2.65 trillion won (US$2.3 billion) recorded by biosimilars. Yet the small market share of biosimilars indicates the great growth potential they hold.
An official from the industry said, “Domestic biosimilar producers are expected to see a sharp sales growth this year, as Celltrion and Samsung Bioepis plan to release biosimilars of the breast cancer drug Herceptin in the European market.” He added that sales of biosimilar products are forecast to surpass 10 percent of the sales of originals for the first time this year thanks to brisk sales of domestic products.