The new coronavirus slowed the growth of the overall outpatient drug prescriptions in the first quarter, in stark contrast to the same period in the previous year when many drugs achieved two-digit sales growth.
According to data by U-BIST, only four out of the top 20 prescription drugs pulled off a two-digit sales growth in the first quarter compared to a year earlier. The number is fewer than half of 10 drugs with two-digit sales growth in the same period of last year.
The four drugs with two-digit sales growth are AstraZeneca’s Tagrisso with 18.2 percent growth that sold 23.9 billion won ($19.4 million) in the first quarter, Hanmi Pharmaceutical’s Rosuzet with 27.4 percent increase that sold 22.8 billion won, LG Chem’s Zemimet with 18.8 percent rise that sold 18.5 billion won, and MSD’s Atozet with 20.8 percent growth that sold 17.9 billion won.
Tagrisso is an anticancer treatment, and the rest three are drugs for chronic diseases such as hyperlipidemia and diabetes. The Covid-19 outbreak did not affect the prescriptions of the four medications because these drugs could be prescribed without face-to-face consultations and for the long term. The oral drug Targrisso is also available for non-face-to-face prescriptions because it does not require an inpatient prescription.
The sales of the rest 16 drugs mostly inched up or down in the first quarter. The No.1 outpatient prescription drug Lipitor by Pfizer sold 47 billion won (minus 0.2 percent), Daewoong Bio’s Gliatamin, 23.6 billion won (4.3 percent), Boehringer Ingelheim’s Twynsta, 23.6 billion won (1.7 percent), Handok’s Plavix, 23 billion won (1.4 percent), and AstraZeneca’s Crestor, 21.3 billion won (minus 5.8 percent).
Gliatamin’s quarterly sales had spiked with 27 percent growth in the first quarter of 2018, and 16.3 percent in the first three months of 2019. However, this year, the growth marked only 4.3 percent.
Crestor’s performance also fell. The drug’s sales shrank 5.8 percent in the first quarter of this year, after 15 percent expansion in the same period of last year. It failed to benefit from its advantage as chronic disease treatment.
Gilead Sciences’ antiviral drug Viread suffered the steepest fall in sales among the top 20 drugs. Regardless of the Covid-19 outbreak, Viread prescriptions are gradually on the decline due to price cuts caused by the expiration of the patent.
Prescriptions of Viread plunged 26.5 percent to 21 billion won in the first quarter, continuing to drop from a 30.5 percent nosedive in annual prescriptions last year.
“Our company has many chronic disease treatments, which require steady medication. So, we don’t expect Covid-19 will hit our sales too hard. But as the pandemic seems to prolong, we will have to see how it goes,” an official at a drugmaker said.
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