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‘Shire’s ulcerative colitis therapy will conquer Korean market, too’[Interview] Yoo Jin-hee, product manager of Shire Korea
  • By Nam Doo-hyun
  • Published 2017.08.10 07:00
  • Updated 2017.08.09 18:59
  • comments 0

Shire Korea is stepping up sales promotion for Mezavant (compound: mesalazine) to dominate the domestic market for ulcerative colitis therapies. Global guidelines advise the use of 5-ASA-affiliated drugs as the primary treatment of ulcerative colitis. Among the 5-ASA-affiliated drugs, doctors mainly prescribe mesalazine products, which cause less side effects than sulfasalazine products. Shire’s Mezavant has been best-selling drug in the mesalazine medicine market since 2013.

Mezavant has solidified its leading position in global markets, but the situation is a little different in Korea. Mezavant has to challenge Pentasa and other existing competitors.

Shire Korea is confident, however, Mezavant will come up victorious in competition with other therapies. The company thinks its product is in with a chance of winning in both efficacy and compliance.

Founded in 1986, Shire has been rated as one of the pharmaceutical companies which take the lead in developing rare disease treatments. It had been a relatively unknown company in Korea but made headlines here last year by merging with Baxalta Inc. and officially launching Shire Korea샤이어코리아 this past March.

As an increasing number of global pharmaceuticals are turning to rare disease therapies faced with limits in developing blockbuster drugs, Shire’s strategy of seeking prosperity by rare disorder therapies is drawing particular attention. Korea Biomedical Review met with Yoo Jin-hee유진희, Shire Korea’s product manager (PM), who is spearheading Mezavant’s marketing to hear about her marketing strategy and the pipelines that will be released in the future.

Yoo had worked at Astra Zeneca Korea, Glaxo Smith Kline (GSK) Korea, Pfizer Korea, and Allergan Korea until she moved to Shire Korea in 2015.

Yoo Jin-hee, the product manager of Shire Korea, talks about the marketing strategy of Mezavant in Korea during a recent interview with Korea Biomedical Review.

Question: What is the marketing strategy for Mezavant in Korea?

Answer: Mezavant has made a belated debut in Korea, but it is a global market leader. The medicine is overwhelming its competitors by gradually widening the gap in market share. Our goal, of course, is to make it a leader in the domestic market, too. To that end, we plan to follow the strategies of “medico-marketing,” a promotional method based on medical information. I want to stress in this regard that the 5-ASA affiliates are essential drugs for the primary treatment of ulcerative colitis.

Since the release of brand new biomedicines emerging as a new paradigm, 5-ASA has been somewhat devaluated. (Biopharmaceutical treatment for ulcerative colitis include such infliximab affiliates as Janssen’s Remicade Celltrion’s Remsima, and Samsung Bioepis’ Renflexis, as well as some adalimumab affiliates, including AbbVie’s Humira and golimumab affiliates, including Janssen’s Simponi.)

Biomedicines are attracting the attention (from media and others). However, 5-ASA affiliates are the treatments patients have to keep in touch most frequently. This is very important for the patients, too, because patients should not neglect the management of compliance and other factors of the primary therapies to prevent them from using secondary and tertiary treatments. Most of the guidelines advise the use of Mesalazine among the 5-ASA affiliates.

Q: There are many products even among mesalazine medications. What sets Mezavant apart from its competitors?

A: Among the mesalzine products released in Korea are Pentasa of Ferring Pharmaceuticals Korea), Asacol of Daewoong Pharmaceutical, and Colazal of Chong Kun Dang Pharmaceutical. It is important for the oral mesalazine products to reach the colon so that the active drug is applied evenly to the entire organ. Some medicines use PH to get to the colon, and others begin to melt after a certain amount of time. Shire has developed the Multi Matrix System (MMX) technique using both methods and introduced it into Mezavant.

By using the MMX technology, just one dose of Mezavant a day can treat the area of inflammation well as it can release the drug continuously, spreading its effects from beginning to end of colons, slowly and evenly. In the case of other medicines, patients have experienced difficulties as they had to take up to 12 tablets in three doses a day to make them reach the colon.

Mezavant has sharply reduced its doses to two to four pills a day, increasing the ease of medicine, which is very important for people with ulcerative colitis. This is because patients often fail to keep right doses and methods as they have to take them for an extended period. Moreover, patients tend to remind themselves they have ulcerative colitis whenever they take drugs. Therefore, reducing the number of doses can be a huge benefit medically and psychologically.

High capacity is another advantage. Unlike the cases of high blood pressure or hyperlipidemia which gradually increase the dosage, ulcerative colitis requires the prescription of full dose in the initial stage and gradually reduces it, so it is important to use high-capacity treatments. Mezavant has the largest capacity among Mesalazine products, with 4.8 grams per four pills a day. I believe these innovations will make Mezavant emerge as the market leader.

Q: If there are some results of clinical trials that studied ease of medicine and relapse rates of Mezavant, introduce them briefly.

A: There is medical proof that shows people who took Mezavant had a high compliance rate, and the patients with high compliance rate saw their relapse rate noticeably drop as well. According to a study called “Relationships between medical compliance and relapse rate of Mezavant” (Kane SV, et al. Inflamm Bowel Dis 2012), After taking Mezavant for 12 months, 79.4 percent of patients showed more than 80 percent medical compliance rates and their relapse rates were far lower than those of patients who did not.

Q: Ulcerative colitis is a disease that requires lifelong care. What is the treatment point of Mezavant?

A: To cure ulcerative colitis, not only should the physical symptoms be mitigated to reach a point of clinical remission, but they should reach endoscopic remission by eliminating all inflammations found in endoscopes. Therefore, patients should not stop or neglect treatment because they do not show signs of diarrhea or blood. People can reduce the risks of colon cancer or its recurrence only when they confirmed their mucous membrane clean and cured and maintained them at that state. Mezavant is a product that has confirmed efficacy and safety in both clinical and endoscopic remissions.

Q: What are other drugs to be released in Korea shortly?

A: Next year, we plan to introduce a cure for pancreatic cancer, and a therapy to treat short bowel syndrome in the year after next. Patients with short bowel syndrome need to go through intravenous treatments. Our product will reduce the dependence of intravenous medications and help the digestive systems. Other products expected are treatments and medications for nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, eosinophilic esophagitis, and progressive familial intrahepatic cholestasis

Q: Do you have any plans for co-promotion with Korean pharmaceutical companies concerning future products?

A: In the field of digestive systems, our company will continuously release new treatments and medications and plans to nurture our workforce. If there are more effective ways, however, we might consider them depending on situations.

Q: Is there a possibility that you will conduct more clinical studies in Korea?

A: That is possible, since we have set up the Korean branch, have many products to launch here and Korea has excellent infrastructure for doing clinical tests. We have plans to expand them.

Q: Is there a difference in your marketing styles because you have focused on rare diseases?

A: Previously, marketing focused on sales and promotion. In this company now, however, we concentrate on the patient, which is why we heavily emphasize the importance of medico-marketing and patient support. We do have promotions as well, but through these promotions, we seek to create an agenda, such as trying to improve the compliance of prescription medicines rather than merely increasing prescriptions.

The company places a lot of emphasis on “positioning” for its sales personnel. A lot of doctors know the product Mezavant many are still unfamiliar with the company Shire. The new marketing scheme seems to have helped enhance our corporate recognition at least among the digestive specialists.

Q: As one of the founding members of the Korean chapter, what are your mid- and long-term goals?

A: I joined Shire Korea in November 2015 as the seventh member, and now we have a little more than 50 people. As Shire merged with Baxalta Inc., the company has laid the foundation to further expand its operations. We will continue to strive to achieve our goal of making Mezavant the market leader here as well as maintaining the leadership in its traditional stronghold of rare disease treatment.


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