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Multinational pharmaceuticals' rush to merge face union backlash in KoreaTop-10 pharmaceutical news in 2019 ⑥
  • By Kim Yun-mi
  • Published 2019.12.29 10:54
  • Updated 2019.12.30 11:36
  • comments 0

This year was a year where the word “safety” was particularly highlighted in the healthcare industry. The N-Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), a potentially carcinogenic substance, which caused a ruckus after being detected in valsartan-based antihypertensive treatment last year, was further extended to ranitidine and nizatidine. Earlier this month, the medical community was startled when the carcinogenic substance was found in some metformin products, which is the most widely used diabetes treatment in Korea. Also, the importance of drug safety was further highlighted through Allergan's breast implant safety issue and Kolon Life Science's Invossa incident. Along with safety issues, Korea Biomedical Review looked back on major issues that have affected the medical industry this year. - Ed

Large multinational pharmaceutical companies have recently announced acquisitions and mergers, including BMS-Celgene, AbbVie-Allergan, and Takeda-Shire, this year. However, some of these companies’ local offshoots are struggling to cope with labor-management disputes.

Takeda Korea entered into a full-fledged reorganization in January after Moon Hee-seok, CEO of Shire Korea, was appointed as the CEO of the integrated company. However, the union composed of the existing Takeda employees expressed dissatisfaction with the reorganization process.

The union said that incentives and employment rules are being implemented in a hostile manner to former Takeda staff, adding that the merged company conducted unfair personnel management in favor of the erstwhile Shire employees.

Despite Moon’s explanation that such issues are all part of a process that naturally occurs in the course of integrating different organizations, the union members attended the meeting of Takeda’s headquarter union and complained that the employees of Takeda Korea are being mistreated. The union also applied for mediation to the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) on July 26.

Most recently, the situation has escalated to a new level after the company fired Kim Young-buk, the leader of Korea Democratic Pharmaceutical Union (KDPU) at Takeda Pharmaceutical Korea, for protesting to a department head at a private gathering.

The KDPU argued that the company's dismissal of Kim was blatant union repression. Still, the decision was not reversed even after the company's review. As Kim still is the head of KDPU and will participate in negotiations with Takeda Korea, the union-management conflict is expected to continue next year.

BMS Korea has appointed Kim Jin-young as its new CEO and officially started its integration process with Celgene Korea. Kim had been serving as the interim CEO of the company since the resignation of the previous CEO, Park Hye-seon, in May.

In the case of AbbVie, which acquired Allergan, the consolidation of the Korean subsidiaries is expected to start next year. Since the merger and acquisition announcement, however, the company is preoccupied with dealing with an adverse turn of events, such as Allergan's breast implant incident and the release of a competitive drug for Botox in the United States.


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