UPDATE : Monday, May 25, 2020
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Drug firms minimize gatherings, hospital visits as coronavirus fear spreads
  • By Jeong Sae-im
  • Published 2020.02.03 15:21
  • Updated 2020.02.04 12:11
  • comments 0

The local pharmaceutical industry is canceling annual events and meetings as fears over the new coronavirus are spreading with the rising number of locally-transmitted cases.

As of Monday morning, the number of confirmed cases in Korea climbed to 15.

The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety said it would nullify a luncheon meeting with CEOs of pharmaceutical companies, initially scheduled for March 12. The minister regularly holds the annual luncheon with heads of drugmakers to discuss the industry’s growth strategies. However, the spread of the novel coronavirus stopped the event this year.

The pharmaceutical industry, too, is canceling or minimizing product briefings and symposiums for doctors.

Last week, Alvogen Korea canceled its plan to invite more than 1,000 physicians to its symposium celebrating the release of obesity treatment Qsymia. More than 1,300 people registered for the event, but the company notified the cancellation to the participants, as the public concerns rose over the spread of the virus.

Many other pharmaceutical firms also decided to withdraw plans to hold symposiums.

“Doctors are reluctant to attend an event where many people gather. So, companies are restraining from offering events until concerns over the new coronavirus infection abate,” an official at a pharmaceutical company said.

Celltrion, which plans to establish the largest biopharmaceutical factory in China in Wuhan, did not change its schedule to break ground in April. However, observers said the company is highly likely to delay the groundbreaking because the new coronavirus originated from Wuhan.

Five employees of Celltrion, who participated in the signing ceremony for the plant construction in Wuhan on Jan. 20, were working from home in Wuhan and observing the situation.

“As we have already completed the signing ceremony, we are not sending additional workers to Wuhan and continuing our work through e-mails. Our schedule for the groundbreaking has not changed,” an official at Celltrion said. “If the situation gets worse, it will be difficult to push for the groundbreaking as scheduled. We’re seeing how this goes.”

Celltrion added it was closely working with the Chinese authorities to monitor the situation.

Drug companies are nullifying not only outside events but internal ones. GC Pharma, Alvogen Korea, and Boryung Pharmaceutical have either canceled or postponed workshops, “Plan of Action,” and annual meetings.

Amgen Korea and AbbVie Korea have even banned their sales representatives from visiting hospitals and ordered all employees to work from home.

Some said if the new coronavirus outbreak continues for a protracted period, it might take a toll on pharmaceutical companies’ marketing. There are already some hospitals that reject visits from workers of pharmaceutical companies.

On Friday, Konkuk University Medical Center sent a notification to drugmakers saying it would restrict their workers’ entry to the hospital until the government lifts the warning of the infectious disease.

“Not only university hospitals but clinics requested employees of pharmaceutical firms not to visit. This atmosphere is spreading in the medical community,” an official at a drugmaker said.


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