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Thursday, June 20, 2024

Korean pharma and bio companies aggressively expand into U.S. market

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Korean pharmaceutical and biotech companies are actively entering the U.S. market, expanding their direct sales network alongside indirect sales through local partners.

Direct sales involve acquiring a local pharmaceutical company through mergers and acquisitions (M&A) or establishing a local corporation or joint venture to directly operate and sell products.

In recent years, direct sales of pharmaceutical and biotech companies in the U.S. have surged due to reasons such as:
▶ Enhanced profitability by reducing sales partner commissions
▶ Improved competitiveness by flexibly adjusting product prices
▶ Stable sales and new product promotion via U.S. subsidiaries
▶ Growth effect of Korean pharmaceutical and biotech companies in the U.S. market

“Being recognized in the U.S. market, which has a vast economy, can bring immense profits. More crucially, it can expedite a company’s global market expansion,” an industry official stated. “Having a U.S. base is pivotal to becoming a global company, reducing the time and cost of introducing new drugs to the worldwide market.”


Direct Sales through Acquisition of Local Subsidiaries and Pharmaceutical Companies

SK Biopharm initially ventured into the U.S. market via direct sales. In 2020, it founded SK Life Sciences, a U.S. subsidiary, to directly market its epilepsy drug Xcopri (Korean name: Cenobamate). The company highlights that direct sales are incredibly profitable, boasting a gross profit margin of 90 percent.

SK pharmteco, an SK Biopharm subsidiary, acquired U.S. Cell & Gene Therapy (CGT) company CBM to establish production bases in both Europe and the U.S. – regions constituting half the global drug market. The firm adopted CGT as a growth catalyst to bolster its competitiveness. Following the CBM acquisition, SK Pharma now has a local supply chain for both synthetic drugs and CGTs in the U.S. and European markets, which jointly represent over 50% of the global pharmaceutical arena.

Celltrion Healthcare (HC) has leveraged local subsidiaries to market its biosimilar pipeline. HC recently licensed and introduced Yuflyma (adalimumab), a biosimilar of the autoimmune disease treatment, Humira. Additionally, the firm began selling Vegzelma’s biosimilar, an anti-cancer drug, in April 2023.

In the previous year, LG Chem acquired AVEO Pharmaceuticals, a U.S. biotech entity, solidifying its foothold in the anti-cancer drug market. “We aim to persistently commercialize and directly retail new anti-cancer medications in the U.S. sector,” an LG Chem representative mentioned.


Indirect Sales

Several corporations opt for indirect sales over direct ones based on their inclinations and cost considerations. Establishing an initial sales network is costly, deterring universal adoption of direct sales.

Indirect sales can distribute products efficiently in the market using established sales networks and local partner relationships.

Companies prominent for their overseas sales via indirect sales encompass Medytox (botulinum toxin), Samsung Bioepis (biosimilars), Hanmi Pharm (new drugs), and Daewoong Pharmaceutical (botulinum toxin).

Medytox is currently gearing up for an FDA license application for MT10109L, a non-animal liquid BTX product.

Samsung Bioepis also channels its offerings in Europe and the U.S. through collaborators like Biogen and Organon.

Hanmi Pharmaceutical, marketing neutropenia drug Rolvedon via its ally Spectrum, also made its U.S. foray through indirect sales to amplify sales efficacy and profitability.

Additionally, Daewoong Pharmaceutical introduced botulinum toxin Nabota (U.S. product name Jeuveau). The count of enrollees for the local loyalty scheme, Evolus Reward, surpassed 600,000. Evolus Reward is Evolus’s customer loyalty initiative, focusing on millennials, Nabota’s U.S. associate.

BY EUNYOUNG LEE    [lee.eunyoung6@koreadaily.com]