Diabetics claim pharmacy law discriminatory
A representative of people suffering from diabetes yesterday highlighted a major problem facing diabetics in obtaining supplies for their blood-sugar testing devices.
Kim Tae-myung, an official at the Diabetic Association of Korea, said the various types of paper used with different testing devices are labelled as pharmacology supplies under the Pharmaceutical Affairs Law and so could only be legally supplied by pharmacies.
Mr. Kim said that while replacement machines could be brought from general medical suppliers, both on and offline, the paper had to be bought from pharmacists.
He added that, to date, for the convenience of diabetic customers, medical supply shops have been tacitly allowed to sell blood sugar testers and the test paper together.
However, Suseo Police in Seoul recently cracked down on 200 such shops for violating the Pharmaceutical Affairs Law, making it harder for patients to obtain test paper.
Mr. Kim said diabetes patients have to test their blood-sugar level three or four times a day, using up to 100 pieces of paper a month, and so needed a reliable supply.
In addition, pharmacies do not always carry the different types of paper required by different machines. “Where should patients buy the paper now?” Mr. Kim asked.
According to the Korea Food and Drug Administration, 220,885 testing devices of 10 types are domestically produced, and 126,034 of 22 types were imported last year. Thus, nearly 350,000 of Korea’s 5 million diabetics use the devices and need access to the paper.
An official at the agency said the administration planned to categorize test paper as a non-pharmaceutical supply after consultation with medical suppliers and pharmacists. He cautioned, however, that this would take time due to vested interests.
by Kim Jung-soo