Pfizer has picked Yuhan Corp. as a partner to defense its smoking cessation therapy Champix from Korean drugmakers’ planned release of generic copies. Yuhan recently announced in a public disclosure that it would jointly promote sales of Pfizer’s Champix (ingredient: varenicline tartrate).
Champix is a popular anti-smoking treatment that sold 64.9 billion won ($58.2 million) last year, according to data from IQVIA. The product enjoyed a rapid sales growth on the Korean government’s anti-smoking policy supports.
Although Champix’ revenue ranked first last year, its outlook is not very rosy.
Local pharmaceutical competitors are expected to roll out generic versions with a different base in November.
Earlier this year, 22 drug companies, including Hanmi Pharmaceutical and Chong Kun Dang, received a favorable decision from the Intellectual Property Trial and Appeal Board that the companies did not infringe on the patent of Champix concerning the extension of the original drug’s patent duration. Champix’ substance patent expires on July 19, 2020.
Pfizer has appealed the decision. Depending on the results, the company may see the release of generic drugs being delayed. However, Pfizer can hardly remain optimistic about a favorable decision.
If competitors do release imitation drugs, Pfizer may face sales declines inevitably, observers said.
The multinational firm already has a bitter experience of seeing its original drug Viagra losing out to local generics.
After the erectile dysfunction treatment’s patent expired, its sales have steadily decreased due to the popularity of generic copies.
Hanmi’s Palpal products replaced Viagra. In the anti-smoking drug market, Hanmi sells Nicopion, the rival drug against Pfizer’s Champix.
Hanmi’s Nicopion’s impact on Champix was almost unnoticeable. However, Hanmi is likely to boost the sales of the Champix’ copy with an enhanced sales power.
Before the government’s smoking cessation support, local drug companies were leading the anti-smoking treatment market.
Pfizer’s choosing Yuhan as the co-promotion partner for Champix was to maintain Champix’ market share, observers said.
Yuhan is known for successfully helping multinationals’ original medicines sell well in the domestic market. The company made a significant contribution to putting Boehringer Ingelheim’s Twynsta and Gilead Sciences’ Viread on the top.
Others, however, said that Pfizer-Yuhan’s co-promotion for Champix might play out differently than Yuhan’s past partnership with other multinationals because Champix was not a new product in the anti-nicotine market. Besides, the original drug’s competition against generics is imminent.
Even for Yuhan with notable sales power, the fight for the original drug against cheap generics might be challenging.
Some original drugs sold by Yuhan suffered a sales decline after the release of generics. There were also views latest team-up between Pfizer and Yuhan was a minimal defense from generics.
“Many drugmakers are expecting the release of generic copies. Before the partnership agreement between the two, some other local firms refused to be the partner for Pfizer citing Pfizer’s work manuals,” a pharmaceutical source said. “The success of the co-promotion of Champix will hinge on how much Yuhan can help defense Champix.”
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