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Korean pharma’s Q1 performance not affected by Covid-19
  • By Kim Yun-mi
  • Published 2020.05.22 17:29
  • Updated 2020.05.25 13:35
  • comments 0

Despite the global spread of the new coronavirus, the local pharmaceutical market continued to expand in the first quarter, industry data showed.

Healthcare big data provider IQVIA Korea on Friday released a report on the Korean pharmaceutical market in the first quarter, based on its report “National Sales Audit.”

The analysis showed that the domestic pharmaceutical market recorded 5.06 trillion won sales in the first quarter, up 5.3 percent from a year earlier.

Korean pharmaceutical market’s total revenue and growth rate (unit: 100 million won)

Observers had predicted that Covid-19 would slow the industry’s growth, but the results came out better than expected.

The outpatient market, including over-the-counter drug sales, showed a 4.9 percent sales growth, and the inpatient market, 5.9 percent. Within the inpatient market, the drug sales growth rate from hospitals was 6 percent, slightly higher than that from clinics.

By drug type, the prescription drug market expanded 5.5 percent, and the OTC market, 3.2 percent. Given the annual average growth rate of 3 to 4 percent in OTC products, the pharmaceutical market has maintained the existing growth momentum in the first quarter.

Analysts had also expected that patients’ shunning of hospital visits for fear of Covid-19 infection would hurt the prescription drug market. However, prescription drugs sold even more during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Sales growth of pharmaceutical products by treatment type in the first quarter of 2020, compared to a year earlier (unit: percent)

Korean drug companies posted a 4.2 percent sales growth, and multinationals, 6.8 percent. Although sales persons suffered a restriction of visits to medical institutions, and multinational firms maintained a mandatory work-from-home policy for a long term, multinationals’ original drugs were relatively less affected by Covid-19, compared to local firms’ generic copies, IQVIA Korea said.

Sales of generic drugs went up 4 percent in the first quarter year-on-year, and those of original drug, 7.4 percent, maintaining the usual average growth.

By type of treatment, sales of anticancer and immunity-modulating therapies rose 11.4 percent, nervous system drugs, 10.8 percent, cardiovascular therapies, 8.1 percent, and respiratory system drugs, 7.9 percent. These medicines drove the overall expansion of the pharmaceutical market.

Jeon Seung, the executive director of commercial sales at IQVIA Korea, attributed the strong sales of these treatments to more use of the drugs in severe diseases, more inpatient prescriptions, or more aggressive treatment of respiratory diseases.

“The growth of the cardiovascular group is particularly impressive,” he noted.

According to Jeon, the growth of angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) and lipid-lowering agents remained unchanged despite Covid-19. In contrast, the sales of systemic anti-infective, musculoskeletal and urinary system drugs shrank by 3.2 percent, 0.8 percent, and 0.7 percent, respectively, not impacting the overall drug market.

Despite the challenging environment, some of the pharmaceutical businesses’ continued growth could make the overall 2020 market outlook a little rosier, he added.


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