Trial Run of Pharmaceutical Sector Reform Falls Short

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Trial Run of Pharmaceutical Sector Reform Falls Short

Before the separation in the role of doctors and pharmacists in Korea, the National Medical Center is conducting a month-long trial run at its center and in nearby pharmacies in Seoul.

The evaluating group from the center was focusing on guiding patients from hospital to prescription booth to pharmacy, rather than in correcting possible inconveniences and the fallout from the separation of the professional roles in domestic medical circles.

The evaluating group escorted a group of 26 patients, who were volunteers, to a pharmacy locating next to the NMC building and offered lunch at the center, which had no relation to the trial run.

After the evaluation, the researchers questioned patients, including asking, “Isn’t it much nicer to be informed of what medicine you should be taking beforehand?” and “Isn’t it more convenient to receive medicine without waiting?”

However, who would say “No” to being escorted step by step, like tourists, and receiving no-cost prescriptions for one month?

For the separation of pharmacies and medical clinics, inconvenience will be a prerequisite. Nonetheless, the Ministry of Health and Welfare didn’t touch upon the potential inconveniences that the new plan is expected to usher in.

The thorny issue has discussed by the government since 1993, sensing the need for a change in medical practices and weighing the accuracy and accountability of dosages over convenience. And now the deadline to separate the role of medical practitioners and and pharmacists is only one month away.

A key point in launching the plan should be to let the public know the inconveniences that await them.

However, the government fell short of expectations in its first test. An official at the ministry gives a clumsy reply, “The original purpose of the model trial was simply to check problems in the process of dispensing prescriptions.”

The government should concern itself with both sides of the new plan, positive and negative. In July, when the new plan is put into practice and people come to realize the inconveniences and cost associated with the plan, the controversial issue could explode in the government’s face.

Critics are hoping for a ‘real’ trial in the test runs slated for June 9 and 10 in the cities of Ansan, Kunpo, and Okchon.

by Shin Song-sik

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