|U.S. President-elect Joe Biden prays before being sworn into office during his inauguration ceremony in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20. EPA-Yonhap|
By Nam Hyun-woo
The presidency of Joe Biden is anticipated to provide wider opportunities for Korean healthcare firms to improve their presence in the U.S. market, as the new president pledged to reform the country's Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.
According to a Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) report on the Biden presidency released Jan. 13, the administration is expected to employ healthcare policies aimed at enhancing the coverage of Obamacare to insure more than an estimated 97 percent of Americans.
Those policies, according to KOTRA, provide greater opportunities for Korean biotech companies that manufacture generics and biosimilar drugs.
"The U.S. is anticipated to enhance its efforts to control the pandemic under the Biden presidency, and this will result in greater opportunities for Korean firms that manufacture testing kits, PPE and other disinfection devices," the report said.
For this, the administration is planning to provide a public health insurance option that reduces costs for patients by negotiating lower prices from hospitals and other healthcare providers, as well as prohibiting pharmaceutical companies from increasing the prices of drugs and generics by more than the general inflation rate. To do so, Biden pledged that the government will allow consumers to buy prescription drugs from other countries.
The report also said Korea has gained a reputation among the U.S. public for effectively containing the spread of COVID-19, while the cutting-edge test kits manufactured by Korean companies have also impressed many people there.
"Korean biotechs and pharmaceuticals have already made a soft landing in the U.S. market, and their presence under the Biden administration will be amplified as Korea's successful containment of COVID-19 has improved the reputation of its healthcare industry," the report said. "Healthcare authorities in the U.S. and the business environment there are also welcoming Korean firms that strive to meet demand in the U.S. and focuses on R&D."
Industry officials said companies such as Celltrion and Samsung Biologics are expected to benefit directly from Biden's policies. Celltrion has won U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approvals of three biosimilar products. Samsung Biologics is expected to see an increase in contract development and manufacturing orders, as well as a boost in its value stemming from its affiliate Samsung Bioepis, which has won FDA approvals of four biosimilar products.
Along with drugs, testing devices, personal protection equipment (PPE) and face mask makers are expected to benefit from Biden's policies.
Biden has been pursuing free national COVID-19 testing, as well as an improved supply of PPE for health workers. He has also signed a federal mask mandate as his first executive order as the president.
The report said, however, that the administration's plans to expand public health insurance is bound to demand low prices for drug makers, which could put pressure on Korean firms' margins from direct sales in the U.S. or licensing out to local partner companies.
Currently, 17 Korean companies are exporting COVID-19 testing kits to the U.S. after winning Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA, including SeeGene, AccessBio and LabGenomics.