Whether SK Chemicals will get expanded insurance coverage for its newly imported Parkinson’s disease treatment is drawing attention in the pharmaceutical industry.
The drugmaker said it recently signed a licensing agreement with Bial, Portugal’s largest pharmaceutical firm, to exclusively sell Ongentys, a Parkinson’s disease remedy, in Korea.
SK Chemicals plans to obtain the regulatory approval within the first half of this year and start selling the treatment in 2020.
Ongentys inhibits the breakdown of levodopa in the bloodstream, a therapeutic agent that helps supplement dopamine. Most Parkinson’s disease patients lack dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain.
Compared to the existing treatment Entacapone, Ongentys helped patients who were unable to move or had difficulty in motion improve their mobility time meaningfully, a study showed.
To be sold in the market, Ongentys should be combined with levodopa.
In Korea, levodopa is sold only in the form of the combination drug. There are 32 levodopa-containing medicines including Sinemet (MSD), Tridopa (Jeil Pharmaceutical), Easylevo (Ilhwa), Madopar (Roche), Perkin (Myungin Pharmaceutical), and Stalevo (Novartis).
The problem for SK Chemicals is that Ongentys cannot be prescribed with an Entacapone-containing combo drug.
Excluding Entacapone ingredients, there are only two levodopa-active medicines that can be used with Ongentys – Roche’s Madopar and MSD’s Sinemet.
Madopar and Sinemet posted 8.5 billion won and 3.2 billion won in sales, respectively, last year. Together, the two sold more than 10 billion won. Assuming that Ongentys is prescribed with either of the two, Ongentys’ target market size is too small, observers said.
SK Chemicals said it was aware of the limited reimbursement problem.
“Doses of levodopa-containing combos cannot be adjusted. To overcome such clinical limitation, Ongentys will be a good alternative. Since we have not started to sell the product yet, I cannot comment further on whether we could get more reimbursements,” an SK Chemicals official said.
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