Bogus complaintsThere are four types of bogus medicines that have no therapeutic effect.
If they are listed in their order of creation, the oldest one is a placebo. A placebo looks like ordinary medicine, but has no pharmaceutical effect. It has more of a psychological effect because a doctor prescribes it.
The second type is a treatment, which has no medicinal value but is promoted as having miraculous effects.
The third is a copy of an existing formula. A bogus form of Amodipine, a high blood pressure remedy, was stopped from being sold shortly before it entered the domestic Korean market. The World Health Organization said 10 percent of the treatments sold in the world, or one out of four pills on the market in developing countries, are bogus. As we can expect, bogus Viagra keeps coming out; most bogus drugs copy blockbuster brand medicines such as Novask, Dioban, Cialis and Propecia.
The fourth type contains poison or harmful ingredients. Heparin may have killed 19 people in the United States recently, and cold medications also may have killed 200 in Panama and Haiti. It turned out that Heparin contained irregularities and the cold remedies contained glycerin intended for industrial use. The two instances have something in common: The medicines were produced by chartered pharmaceutical companies but poisoned ingredients imported from China were used.
Among the four , placebos are harmless because they are simply sugar pills, distilled water or a saline solution.
The other three types risk people’s lives. Of drugs sold under the name of Artesunate, an anti-malarial agent, up to 53 percent are bogus, which clearly shows the danger and lack of ethics in the production of fake medicines. About 1 million people die from malaria each year and the World Health Organization estimates that if genuine drugs were used, 200,000 would have survived.
Koreans could become victims at any moment. Koreans take medication excessively and our neighbors in China have the world’s largest market for bogus treatments. China is also the biggest exporter of drug ingredients. They have already found sales channels into Korea on the Internet and the black market.
Among the nine heads of the Korea Food and Drug Administration, four, including the newly designated Yun Yeo-pyo, are former professors of pharmacology. Understandably, the medical field and the sitology circles are complaining. All the duties of the KFDP are equally important but Yun, the new chairman, should make sure incidents involving bogus treatments are prevented.
The writer is a special health reporter for the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Park Tae-kyun [firstname.lastname@example.org]