An uneven start to sale of OTC drugs

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An uneven start to sale of OTC drugs

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A supermarket owner in Dogok-dong, southern Seoul, displays energy drinks on his shelf, yesterday. By Kim Do-hoon


Starting yesterday, some over-the-counter (OTC) drugs were allowed to be sold outside pharmacies, such as at supermarkets and 24-hour convenience stores.

But for a while at least, consumers will find things hit or miss when it comes to finding the various medications they seek.

When a JoongAng Ilbo reporter visited a Family Mart, yesterday, near Seolleung Station in southern Seoul, a new display stand was prepared to display items such as the energy drink Bacchus and drinkable digestive aids. But the stand was empty.

But at Kosa Mart in Yangjae-dong, southern Seoul, six OTC medicines were on sale - including Bacchus; madecassol, an ointment for wounds; and antipramin, an ointment for sore muscles. The supermarket’s workers were busy arranging the products on the shelves.

“We had to ask around wholesale dealers beforehand to have the products on sale from today,” said Kim Hee-ok, 51, the Kosa Mart owner.

And there was confusion as well. One customer named Choi Eun-kyung, 38, said, “I was going to purchase cold medicine or painkillers if they had any but I guess they are not allowed.”

The Ministry of Health and Welfare yesterday put into effect new rules that reclassified 48 medicines and medical supplies, making them exempt from the country’s pharmaceutical law. Under the law, pharmacies have exclusive rights to manage pharmaceutical products, including OTC drugs.

The ministry said it reclassified the medicines and supplies because they don’t have any safety issues and want to allow easier access for the public. Of the 48 items, 18 are digestive aids, 11 are intestinal drugs, five are ointments, and two are pain relief patches. There are 12 drink products as well.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare said it will take about a week for these drugs to actually be distributed and become available outside pharmacies because pharmaceutical companies and retailers have to go through certain procedures such as signing contracts and registering products.

Health Minister Chin Soo-hee said yesterday that he hopes that pharmacists will continue to carry OCT medicine as well as controlled ones.

“Because demand from the public [to ease restrictions on the sale of OTC medicine] is large, it will be difficult for pharmacists to ignore their demands.”

The minister added that they are “encouraging pharmaceutical companies [to enter into the new market].”


By Yim Seung-hye, Park Yu-mi [sharon@joongang.co.kr]

한글 관련 기사 [연합]
"박카스 안팔아요?" 슈퍼 들른 시민 불편

그간 약국에서만 판매됐던 박카스 등 일반의약품 48종이 의약외품으로 전환돼 21일부터 슈퍼마켓이나 편의점에서 살 수 있게 됐지만 유통 차질로 시민들이 불편을 겪고 있다.

이날 찾은 서울시내 슈퍼마켓과 편의점 여러 곳에서는 실제로 소화제나 드링크류 제품을 사려던 시민들이 발길을 돌리는 모습이 눈에 띄었다.

성북구에 사는 주부 조모(43)씨는 "혹시나 하고 동네 슈퍼마켓에 가서 박카스를 찾았지만 없다는 말만 들었다. 슈퍼마켓 주인도 `언제 받을 수 있는지 모르겠다`는 말만 하더라"고 말했다.

급히 소화제를 사러 중구에 있는 직장 근처 슈퍼마켓을 방문했다는 김모(32)씨도 빈손으로 가게 문을 나섰다.


이씨는 "속이 답답하던 차에 오늘부터 (소화제를) 판다는 사실이 생각나서 편의점에 들렀는데, 그냥 약국을 찾는 편이 나을 뻔했다"고 불만을 표시했다.

실제로 연합뉴스가 서울 종로와 중구, 성북구의 슈퍼마켓 10여곳을 확인한 결과 각종 소화제나 박카스 등을 취급하는 곳은 없었다.

마트ㆍ편의점 업계도 제조업체와 약품상 등에서 공급에 쉽게 응하지 않아 물량 확보에 어려움을 겪고 있다는 설명이다.

여의도의 한 편의점 점주는 "본사에서 공급이 안돼 손님들을 여러 명 돌려보냈다"며 "우리도 물건을 들여놓고 싶지만 당분간 납품이 어려울 거라는 이야기를 들었다"고 말했다.

영등포구의 편의점에서 만난 대학생 이모(20.여)씨는 "왜 박카스를 안 파는지 물어봤지만 아르바이트생이 `모르겠다`고만 했다"며 "논란만 많고 정작 시행될 때는 보완 조치가 잘 안된 것 같다"고 지적했다.
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