Korea's deficit in pharmaceuticals trade has been on the decline for the last five years, as exports grew 18 percent from 2014 to 2018, far outpacing the import rise of 6.2 percent over the period.
According to a report released recently by the Korea Health Industry Development Institute (KHIDI), pharmaceutical exports in 2018 hit a record high of $4.6 billion, a 14.9 percent increase from 2017. Imports amounted to $6.47 billion, up 16.6 percent from the previous year.
Despite the sharp increase in import last year, the trade gap had decreased considerably over the last five years, from $2.6 billion to $1.8 billion.
Most of the outbound shipments were made in finished products, such as biopharmaceuticals, antibiotics, vaccines and botulinum toxins. The top two export items were immunological products belonging to biopharmaceuticals, accounting for 38.7 percent of the total and up 32.7 percent from the previous year.
By region, the United States was the largest importer of Korean pharmaceutical products with $500 million, followed by Germany and Japan, $460 million each, Turkey’s $390 million and China’s $100 million.
The other five among the top 10 importers were Hungary, Vietnam, Croatia, the Netherlands, and Brazil. Except for Japan and Vietnam, the eight other countries recorded at least 10-percent growth in buying Korean drugs during the five years.
Concerning business performance, the sales of 125 listed pharmaceutical companies totaled 20.4 trillion won ($17.1 billion) last year, a 7.5 increase from 2017.
Twelve companies marked annual sales of 500 billion won or more in 2018, compared with 10 firms in 2017. The 12 drugmakers were Yuhan, GC, Chong Kun Dang, Daewoong Pharmaceutical, Celltrion, Hanmi Pharmaceutical, Kwangdong Pharmaceutical, Jeil Pharmaceutical, Dong-A ST, JW Pharmaceutical, Samsung BioLogics and Ildong Pharmaceutical.
Yuhan and GC achieved annual sales of more than 1 trillion won, and four pharmaceutical companies ranked among the top-100 manufacturing firms listed on the stock market.
The R&D expenditure of pharmaceutical companies totaled 1.6 trillion won last year, up 16.6 percent from 2017. The share of R&D against sales was 7.7 percent, up 0.6 percent.
The R&D expenditure of innovative pharmaceutical companies amounted to 1.2 trillion won, accounting for 74.5 percent of the total R&D spending of listed pharmaceutical companies, and their R&D-turnover ratio was 9.3 percent.
The R&D cost of pharmaceutical venture companies was 172.5 billion won in 2018, an increase of 23.6 percent from the previous year, marking the R&D -sales ratio of 18.2 percent, the report showed.
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