Pfizer’s generic business turn ‘disastrous’ amid cancer controversy

So Jae-hyeon  Published 2018.10.26  17:14  Updated 2018.10.26 17:14


- 3Q performance of main products reduced to half

Multinational pharmaceutical giant Pfizer’s generic business in Korea is not out of the woods yet.

According to outpatient prescription data at Ubist, a pharmaceutical market surveyor, major products of Pfizer Vitals, a generic arm of the giant company, continued to remain in doldrums in the third quarter. Leading the downward spiral was Norvasc V Tab., a high blood pressure medication that contains a carcinogen.

The outpatient prescription of Norvasc V for the three months that ended on Sept. 30 fell to the half level of a year ago. Novarsc V, the generic of Exforge, recorded the prescription valued at 2.07 billion won (1.81 million) in the third quarter of 2018 but the comparable figure plunged 60.5 percent to 816 million won a year later.

The steep fall of Norvasc V is like putting its neck into the noose, some say.

In July last year, the domestic drug industry went into confusion as regulators uncovered carcinogen, N-Nitrosodimetylamine in the valsartan supplied by China’s medical material maker Zhejiang Huahai Pharmaceuticals. After the Ministry of Food and Drug Ministry suspended the sales of affected products, Pfizer turned to aggressive marketing of Norvasc V.

At the time, Pfizer distributed brochures saying the “Norvasc V had nothing to do with valsartan scandal and are safe” to primary customers.

The strategy seemed to work, improving its performances. Norvasc V registered prescription valued at 91 million won.

In August, however, the medication’s sales nosedived, as the ministry put Norvasc V in the list of 59 drugs from 22 companies that used possibly cancer-causing materials.

Pfizer even provoked public outrage coping with the situation passively, by carrying its apology in only one media outlet.

Finally, the company was forced to suspend Novarsc V’s marketing. Its prescription stood at zero in September.

Korea Otsuka Pharmaceutical also saw the sales of its Cilo V, a generic of antithrombotic Pletaal, fall.

It marked the prescription of 117 million won in the third quarter, down 15.3 percent from 139 million won a year ago.

MSD’s Montelu V, a generic of anti-asthma medication Singulair, also registered reduced prescription, from 42 million won to 28 million won, a drop of 32.2 percent, over the cited period.

Gapraton, an itopride medicine, registered prescription of 9 million won, down 18.1 percent from 11 million won, over the period.

Clo V, a clopidogrel medication, was the only generic product of Pfizer that showed growth. Its prescription rose 32.5 percent from 21 million won to 28 million won during the period.

Some market watchers predict Pfizer will scale down its generic business in Korea, noting that Pfizer Vitals has only two products with quarter sales of 100 million won or more.

“Generic business is the area domestic pharmaceuticals can ill afford to give to multinationals,” an industry executive said. “Korean drugmakers, too, dispose of products with negligible prescription records. Pfizer will eventually have similar concerns.”

LG Chemical, which is in charge of making Pfizer Vitals’ products, has voluntarily withdrawn licenses for major generic products. Pfizer also abandoned licenses for 23 products in one day in July 2016.

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