Obesity represents big business and big problems. The condition has essentially tripled since the 1970s as raising middle classes around the world, couple with associated lifestyle demonstrates that although wealth produces many good things, its also correlated in the aggregate with growing lifestyle-related health challenges. The commodities coupled with obesity, from type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease and arthritis to NASH and possible cancers, are increasingly documented. TrialSite has acknowledged that, in some cases, medication may be a primary means of managing this growing problem. Denmark’s Novo Nordisk has been most prescient about targeting this market; however, recently in South Korea, Qsymia recently bumped Saxenda out of the leading position in that important Asian country of approximately 52 million people.
Obesity problems in the the United States are well documented, with over one-third of the adult population considered obese. Although South Korea’s obesity rates are among the lowest in the OECD, they are steadily on the rise with 4.7% of the adult population now declared obese. About 30% of the adult population is now considered “overweight,” hence the growing risk for not only the obesity rate but also other associated conditions.
Alvogen Korea’s Qsymia
Novo Nordisk’s Saxenda has been the No. 1 selling prescription drug for obesity in Korea until recently as Alvogen Korea’s Qsymia moved the Copenhagen-based powerhouse aside for the top market share in the local obesity market. The Korea Biomedical Review reports that this ends the Danes’ three year rein on the top. This data originates from a UBIST, a drug market survey firm, revealing that prescription Qsymia totaled 7.14 billion won ($6 million) while Saxenda dropped to fourth place behind Daewoong Pharmaceuticals (Dietamine) and Huon (Hutermine).
What is Qsymia?
This drug, Qsymia, is a combination of phentermine and topiramate and is used to treat obesity along with lifestyle changes (e.g. diet and exercise). The drug has been associated with some serious side effects. It was approved in the United States by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2012 while Europe denied its approval due to safety concerns. The drug is developed by Vivus.
Marketing of the Drug
Although Vivus Inc. (Nasdaq: VVUS) is the developer, Alvogen secured a deal to license and market the drug in Korea as reported by thepharmaletter in 2019. The deal goes back to 2017 when U.S.-based Alvogen in partnership with Vivus secured marketing approval from the South Korea Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS). Alvogen is accountable for ongoing assurance of regulatory approval in South Korea as well as all marketing activities. It would appear they are living up to their end of the bargain as they just made their way to the top.
Founded just 11 years ago, privately held Alvogen has already surpassed the billion dollar revenue mark, employing 1,700 across 20 nations. The company was founded by Robert Wessman, who was formerly the CEO of Actavis. Since 2012, they have acquired three different companies in Taiwan and South Korea (hence Alvogen Korea) and they operate as Lotus Pharmaceuticals. Alvogen is listed on the Taipei Stock Exchange (1795.TT). By 2015, CVC Capital Partners and Singapore sovereign fund Temasek bought a controlling stake in Alvogen.