[EDITORIALS]Bad medicine, lax oversight

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[EDITORIALS]Bad medicine, lax oversight

The public is in an indignant uproar about the circumstances that led the Korea Food and Drug Administration to allow the sale of 166 cold medicines containing phenylpropanolamine, or PPA, an ingredient suspected to increase the risk of strokes. Medicines containing this ingredient are banned in the United States. It is unclear whether the Korea Food and Drug Administration is a government agency created to cater to the interests of the pharmaceutical companies or to protect the health of the public.
It is only right that when a risk related to medication is discovered the administrative authorities immediately announce the findings and take proper precautionary measures. But it is reported that the administration only requested a research team from Seoul National University to conduct research on the PPA-containing medicines in 2002, two years after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had banned cold medicines containing the drug. Only when the Seoul National University research showed that there was an increased risk of strokes did the administration ban the sale of the medicines. Now, the administration is making all kinds of excuses, but nothing can excuse its negligence in ignoring the warnings of the world-renowned U.S. agency for four years.
While the administration was blatantly neglecting its duty, more than 25.8 million prescriptions were filled for PPA-containing cold medicines, and there has been a case reported of an elderly patient who has suffered a stroke after taking one of the medications. The agency even went as far as to issue permits for PPA-containing medicines to some pharmaceutical firms even after it received the research results confirming the risk. Many suspect that illicit lobbying must have taken place.
A consumer group claims that there are tens of medicines sold in Korea that are banned in other countries for containing risky ingredients.
We are not experimental guinea pigs. Pharmaceutical firms should not get away with selling medicines containing ingredients with risks. It is our health and lives we are talking about. If such shameless acts are forgiven, our society will only regress.
This is not an affair that should end with a lukewarm audit of the Health and Welfare Ministry, which is also guilty for having turned a blind eye to the misdeeds of the Food and Drug Administration.
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