Exports of botulinum toxin products recorded the largest volume last year in Korean history.
Shipments to China rose significantly after a brief decline due to Beijing’s strict crackdown on merchants, who purchase tax-free goods in Korea and sell them in China. Exports to the U.S. also jumped, raising the total exports of botulinum toxin by over 50 percent year-on-year in 2019.
The export amount of what industry officials presume to be botulinum toxin (HS Code: 3002903090) expanded to $224.4 million last year, up 55.9 percent from $143.9 million a year earlier.
Half of the exports, $113.3, went to China and Hong Kong. As Beijing has yet to authorize Korean botulinum toxin, local products are presumed to have been sold through “daigong,” or smugglers. Exports to China had been showing a three-digit growth since 2015, but the stricter crackdown on daigong pushed down the growth rate significantly to 5 percent in 2018. However, exports rebounded with a 53.2 percent growth rate, apparently boosted by trading in the black market.
Exports to the U.S. also showed fast growth. Korean botulinum toxin products sold to the U.S. started with $420,000 in 2018, but the figure climbed to $26.9 million in 2019, with Korean companies entering the U.S. market.
Daewoong Pharmaceutical became the first local firm to win U.S. approval for botulinum toxin Nabota (U.S. brand name: Jeuveau) in February and rolled out the product in May. Nabota has the same 900kDa molecular structure as Allergan's Botox but is priced lower than Botox, quickly gaining more market share.
With Nabota’s sale growth in the U.S., the U.S. became the second-largest importer of Korean botulinum toxins. The U.S. used to rank 23rd in 2018.
Exports of Korean botulinum toxins are expected to pick up further this year. Daewoong obtained European approval for Nabota in October, for the first time among Korean botulinum toxin makers. The company plans to sell the product in Europe this year in earnest. If the sale goes as planned, the year 2020 will be the first year to generate exports of botulinum toxin in Europe.
Industry officials also expect legal exports of botulinum toxins to China this year. Medytox applied for Beijing’s nod to sell Meditoxin in February 2018. The Chinese authorities have delayed the review for some time, but the company hopes to win the green light this year. Hugel, which also requested Chinese approval for its botulinum toxin in April last year, is anticipating the nod in 2020.
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