The outpatient drug prescriptions market saw a drastic contraction in February due to short business days.
According to U-BIST data, most of the drugs’ outpatient prescription sales fell in February from a year earlier. Except for a few items, top ranking medicines all suffered losses.
This year, there were only 18 business days in February due to Seollal, or Lunar New Year holidays. Last year, Korea had Seollal in late January, which added two more business days in February.
In February, Pfizer’s dyslipidemia treatment Lipitor ranked first in outpatient prescriptions.
Lipitor’s prescriptions inched down to 11.95 billion won ($11.3 million) in February, down 4.7 percent compared to 12.54 billion won in the previous year. However, the treatment maintained the No. 1 position. Gilead Sciences’ Viread, distributed by Yuhan Corp., ranked second due to 300 million won fewer prescription sales than those of Lipitor.
Viread’s prescriptions also went down 6.9 percent year-on-year to 11.92 billion won. While the No. 1 and 2 were competing in a narrow gap, the third’s performance was significantly weaker than the second.
Boehringer Ingelheim’s Twynsta, a hypertension drug, ranked third with 5.96 billion won outpatient prescriptions. The figure is an 11.6 percent plunge from 6.74 billion won a year earlier.
Among top-selling products, only three – Daewoong Bio’s Gliatamin, JW Pharmaceutical’s Livalo, and Chong Kun Dang’s Gliatilin – saw their prescriptions rise in February.
Gliatamin and Gliatilin are rival drugs. Gliatamin is ahead of Gliatilin in sales, but Gliatilin is showing rapid growth. Gliatamin’s prescription sales rose to 5.46 billion won in February, up 20.3 percent from 4.54 billion won a year earlier. It ranked fourth in outpatient prescriptions. Gliatilin’s prescriptions recorded 4.45 billion won in February, about 1 billion won less than Daewoong’s drug. However, Gliatilin’s sales was a 40.2 percent jump from 3.17 billion won in the previous year.
Bristol-Myers Squibb’s flagship product Baraclude, which is facing competition from Viread and other generic drugs, suffered an 11.4 percent decline to post 5.37 billion won in prescriptions in February. AstraZeneca’s Crestor, whose seller was switched to Daewoong, also fell to 5.22 billion won, down 7.4 percent from 5.64 billion won in the same period of 2017.
Livalo's outpatient prescriptions went up by 9.6 percent to 3.71 billion won from 4.171 billion won a year earlier.
LG Chem's Zemimet, an antidiabetic combo drug, grew 26 percent to 4.05 billion won from 3.18 billion won during the cited period.
Pharmaceutical salespersons are having a hard time closing the quarter amid the disappointing outpatient sales because they have to meet the sales target regardless of the number of business days, industry watchers said.
“We fill up the February’s drop with March sales. We need a bigger growth in March compared to February to make the quarter deadline. We have the best sales outcome in March in the first quarter. If things get shaky in March, we can’t reach our sales goal,” said a salesperson at a drugmaker.
Another marketing agent said, “Nowadays, it is difficult to receive statistics from the nursing institutions due to the rebate issue. We need statistics to find out our sales outcome, but this is the most difficult part.”
He went on to say, “We are raising our target every year, although the number of business days is low in the first quarter due to Seollal holidays. If necessary, I might have to sell drugs to wholesalers forcefully.”
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