The competition between MSD Korea and SK Chemicals is heating up over the domestic shingles vaccine market.
After some clinics announced that they have cut the shingles vaccine price to encourage more vaccinations, MSD raised suspicions that SK Chemicals was doing excessive marketing.
In response, SK Chemicals said it was the clinics that set the price of the shingles vaccines, not the supplier.
MSD has been selling Zostavax, the world’s first shingles vaccine, exclusively since 2013. Last year, however, SK Chemicals became a rival against MSD as the company released the world’s second shingles vaccine Skyzoster in December.
SK Chemicals has invested 400 billion won ($376 million) in research and development for the shingles vaccine since 2008. The company succeeded in commercializing the shingles vaccine as the first local pharmaceutical firm in Korea.
The vaccination of Zostavax is reportedly priced at around 160,000-200,000 won per shot, and that of Skyzoster, 130,000-140,000 won.
MSD pointed out that after the launch of Skyzoster, some clinics lowered the price of shingles vaccine by 30,000-40,000 won. The company suspects that such clinics did not cut the price but just switched the vaccine to cheaper Skyzoster from more expensive Zostavax.
MSD said its supply price of the shingles vaccine has not changed. The company said the shingles vaccination discounts were seen at clinics in various regions, including southern Seoul, northern Busan, Daejeon, and in South Jeolla Province.
SK Chemicals said it did not know why MSD would raise such suspicions.
“The company sets the supply price, which takes into account various factors such as facilities, R&D, and investment costs. We cannot intervene in clinics’ pricing of shingles vaccines at all,” an official at SK Chemicals said. “It’s not something to which we need to respond. To promote the public health, we will supply shingles vaccines at a reasonable price.”
According to the Health Insurance Review & Assessment Service (HIRA), the number of local shingles patients rose from 570,000 in 2012 to 620,000 in 2013, to 640,000 in 2014, to 660,000 in 2015, and to 690,000 in 2016.
With the expansion of the shingles vaccine market, about 700,000 doses of shingles vaccines have been supplied in Korea, HIRA estimated.