SEOUL, KOREA- Approximately 85.0 per cent of lung cancer patients in South Korea are afflicted with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), creating a plethora of opportunities for pharmaceutical companies to expand their portfolios of drugs for this disease. Pharmas' R&D efforts will be bolstered by South Korea's advanced medical and research infrastructure, combined with the burgeoning biotechnology industry.
The Non-small Cell Lung Cancer Drug Market (NSCLC) in South Korea, finds that the market earned revenues of USD 96 million 2010 and expects this to reach USD 219 million in 2017.
South Korea's aging population presents drug manufacturers with a vast market, as patients are generally aged 65 or above at the time of diagnosis. In addition to this, the majority of patients are in stage III or IV at the time of diagnosis, where the primary treatment involves drugs.
"Due to the universal health insurance coverage provided by the South Korean government, the majority of diagnosed patients are able to seek treatment," says Research Analyst Neha Koul. "The high level of access means that patients can comply with the drug regimen prescribed by their physician, although the choice of drugs will depend on the reimbursement provided by the government."
As the levels of early diagnosis are low, it reduces the patient volume that could benefit from drug therapy. Further, the lack of a regular screening program and the often innocuous early signs of the disease impede the likelihood of an early diagnosis. In this scenario, sponsoring disease awareness programs to aid the identification of risk factors and early symptoms of NSCLC is the need of the hour.
Manufacturers can also capture a larger market share by developing drugs that prolong survival and decrease the severity of the side effects. However, before they can commercially launch their new drugs, they need to conduct rigorous clinical trials and studies to prove the drugs' efficacy so that the government grants them reimbursement status.
"A new drug application must show clear improvement in patients and has to be backed by solid data, especially since the approval process has become more stringent in recent years," notes Koul.
Among the drugs in the late stages (phase II and III) of trials, targeted therapies are expected to dominate the market. Although these novel drugs herald a more personalized approach to treatment, they are also known as 'premium priced' therapies and come with hefty price tags. Other drugs that are showing considerable promise at the trial stages are NSCLC vaccines, which stimulate the patient's own immune system to generate a non-toxic and longer-term antitumor response.
Multinational and foreign companies are expected to increasingly acquire niche biotechnology companies, such as those developing biosimiliars or innovative biopharmaceuticals for NSCLC.