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Pharmaceutical firms developed no major OCT drugs since 2000
SEOUL, April 17 (Yonhap) -- South Korean pharmaceutical companies have not produced major over-the-counter drugs since 2000, an industry association said Wednesday, as they focused on the development of profitable specialized drugs.

   A total of 25 OCT drugs, whose separate annual sales topped 10 billion won (US$ 8.9 million) last year, were introduced before 2000 when the government mandated the separation of OTC medicine and prescription medicine, according to Korea Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association.

   The top 10 OCT drugs by sales volume include drugs with household names such as the popular energy drink "Bacchus," and they all hit the market before 2000, the association said.

   The association also said only two out of 68 OCT drugs -- whose annual sales exceeded 5 billion won -- were produced since 2000, though the two medicines are made by foreign pharmaceutical companies.

   The development indicated that the local pharmaceutical companies did not want to take risks in developing new OTC drugs as they focused on the research and development as well as marketing of specialized drugs.

   "There are big risks to cultivate a new brand at a time when it costs billions of won in advertisements to maintain a good OCT brand," an official of a pharmaceutical company said.

   Another factor responsible for the absence of new major OCT drugs is that South Koreans favor prescription drugs if illnesses do not pose serious health risks, as the cost of seeing doctors has decreased.

   The association said local pharmaceutical companies produced specialized drugs worth 11.32 trillion won in 2011, compared with 3.89 trillion won in 2000.

   Meanwhile, the companies produced OCT drugs worth 2.55 trillion won in 2011, compared with 2.56 trillion won in 2000, according to the association.

   It remains unclear whether South Korea's latest move to allow sales of some non-prescription drugs at convenience stores and supermarkets will boost sales of OCT drugs and prompt pharmaceutical companies to develop new OCT drugs.

   entropy@yna.co.kr
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