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Local firms rush to develop blinding disease treatments
  • By Nam Doo-hyun
  • Published 2018.12.20 14:37
  • Updated 2018.12.20 14:37
  • comments 0

The macular degeneration treatment market is heating up with local drugmakers’ competition to develop generic copies of original treatments Lucentis and Eylea.

The patent of Lucentis (ranibizumab) by Novartis Korea recently expired, and that of Bayer Korea’s Eylea (aflibercept) is to expire in 2022. According to data from IQVIA, Lucentis sold 19.6 billion won ($17.3 million) last year, and Eylea, 30 billion won.

Bayer Korea’s macular degeneration drug Eylea (above) and Novartis Korea’s Lucentis

Until the third quarter this year, Eylea sold 26 billion won, up 3.5 billion won compared to a year earlier. Lucentis sold 14.3 billion won, down 600 million won from a year earlier. The combined sales of the two treatments increased by 3 billion won this year, compared to a year earlier.

The rapid aging of the population and worsening air quality caused by fine dust are likely to aggravate the symptoms of macular degeneration, which will make the treatments more significant, observers said. Local pharmaceutical companies are accelerating moves to work on imitations of the blockbuster medicines.

The front-running pipeline is Chong Kun Dang’s biosimilar CKD-701 that copied Lucentis. The company is conducting a phase-3 trial on the drug. Samsung Bioepis is also engaging in a phase-3 study on a biosimilar of Lucentis.

AngioLab has started a phase-2 trial on ALS-L1023, a new drug substance for macular degeneration treatment, in December.

Alteogen has completed a non-clinical trial on ALT-L9, a biosimilar of Eylea, in the U.S. in midyear. GenoFocus has also begun a trial on a new pipeline for the indication of macular degeneration.

“The prevalence of macular degeneration rises along with aging. But there are not many licensed treatments, and they are all made by multinational companies,” an official at a biotech company said. “We are hoping for locally developed drugs which will not only expand the entire market but save health insurance costs.”

Amid fierce competition among local firms to develop generics, Bayer Korea said it was enhancing medical evidence for Eylea’s efficacy based on abundant clinical data.

Bayer Korea on Dec. 6 obtained approval from the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety to change Eylea’s dosage regiment to extend the interval of administration for wet age-related macular degeneration.


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