Korean biosimilar drugs are quickly chasing original medicines in the domestic market.
According to data from IQVIA, a pharmaceutical market researcher, biosimilars showed significant sales growths compared to originals in the first quarter.
The absolute numbers of sales in biosimilars are still trivial compared to those of original drugs. However, prescriptions of biosimilars are growing faster than those of originals.
Janssen’s original drug Remicade, a treatment for autoimmune diseases, marked a 12.8 percent rise in sales to 10.5 billion won ($9.7 million) in the first quarter from 9.3 billion won a year earlier. Sales of biosimilar Remsima by Celltrion jumped 29.8 percent to 5.29 billion won from 4.08 billion won.
Although the biosimilar Remsima sold only half of the original Remicade, Remsima’s quick pace of growth was noteworthy.
Whereas Pfizer’s Enbrel, an original treatment for autoimmune diseases, suffered a sales decline in the first quarter, its biosimilar Etoloce by Samsung Bioepis (formerly branded as Brenzys) achieved growth. However, Etoloce’s revenue is still insignificant, compared to that of Enbrel.
Enbrel sold 4.4 billion won in the first quarter last year, but the figure went down by 10.6 percent to 3.9 billion won this year.
Etoloce, developed by Samsung Bioepis and sold by Yuhan, sold 255 million won in the first quarter this year, up 39.8 percent from 179 million won a year earlier.
Roche’s breast cancer drug Herceptin saw its revenue going down 17.5 percent from 26.2 billion won in the first quarter last year to 21.6 billion won this year.
The slip of Herceptin sales was affected by Celltrion’s biosimilar Herzuma, which entered the market this year and sold 797 million won in the first quarter.
The competition around Herceptin is likely to heat up, as Samsung Bioepis has recently released a biosimilar Samfenet.
“As global data on Korean biosimilars accumulate, local physicians started to prescribe biosimilars based on these data. The rising credibility of biosimilars will threaten original drugs,” an industry executive said.
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