Korean pharmaceutical companies are increasing the sales of their drugs that have not been selling well after development several years ago by improving their functions.
According to pharmaceutical industry experts on October 25, the sales of major domestic drugs by the third quarter of this year significantly increased from the previous year. Most of the drugs have been launched about five to 10 years ago, and their marketability has been increased through recent improvements.
One example is Daewon Pharmaceutical’s antiinflammatory analgesic drug “Pelubi.” It was released in 2007 as the 12th newly developed domestic drug in Korea, and although it has failed to exceed 4 billion won (US$3.6 million) in annual sales until 2014, the sales up to the third quarter this year reached 17.1 billion won (US$15.3 million). This is more than twice the amount in the same period last year. This year’s sales are expected to top 20 billion won. The secret to the increased sales was that Daewon added removal of fever to the functions of Pelubi.
Ilyang Pharmaceutical could increase the sales of “Noltec,” a reflux esophagitis treatment, by adding Helicobacter pylori eradication to the drug’s functions. Notec’s sales reached 18.4 billion won in the first three quarters of this year, up 10% from a year ago. Noltec is the 14th newly developed drug in Korea.
Meanwhile, some pharmaceutical companies maximized efficacy of their drugs by adding new ingredients to them. “Zemiglo Tab” developed by LG Chem is one example. Sales of the Zemiglo product line, which combines Zemiglo and Zemimet, increased by 14.8% to 63 billion won (US$56 million) in the third quarter from 54.9 billion won (US$49 million) in the same period last year. Zemimet, which is an improved product made by adding another diabetes treatment ingredient to Zemiglo, led the big sales increase. LG Chem, which launched Zemiglo in 2012, has been struggling after losing the sales to global pharmaceutical companies' diabetic treatments, Januvia and Trajenta, but recently succeeded in increasing its market share by launching Zemimet.
An official of LG Chem said, "We are aiming at sales of 80 billion won (US$72 million) this year and 100 billion won (US$90 million) next year." It will be an interesting point to see whether Zemiglo will become the first “blockbuster” drug with the sales exceeding 100 billion won (US$90 million) for the first time as a Korean drug.
Sales of antihypertensive drug “Kanarb” product line of Boryung Pharmaceutical, which is the 15th new drug in Korea, also rose 20% from 40.6 billion won (US$36 million) in the same period last year to 48.3 billion won (US$43 million) by the third quarter. Sales of “Dukarb,” an improved product made by adding another antihypertensive treatment ingredient to Kanarb, doubled from the previous year, driving the growth of the company.
There is a total of 30 domestically developed drugs in Korea, from SK Chemicals' anti-cancer drug “Sunpla” launched in 1999 to recently developed reflux esophagitis treatment “K-CAB” of CJ Healthcare. However, even if they were approved as new domestic drugs, they often failed to attract as much attention as expected due to the failure of marketing strategy and high competition. As of 2016, production of nine domestic new drugs was stopped and sales of 20 drugs barely made to 10.5 billion won (US$94 million). As such, it is becoming more difficult for companies other than large pharmaceutical companies to go for new drug development in Korea.