Over-the-counter drugs coming to supermarkets

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Over-the-counter drugs coming to supermarkets

Aspirin and other simple medicines are finally coming to convenience stores and supermarkets.

After months of false starts and resistance from pharmacists, the Ministry of Health and Welfare said the Korean Pharmaceutical Association has agreed to relinquish its monopoly on sales of basic medicines like aspirin and cold remedies.

The ministry said that a revised pharmaceutical law is expected to be approved at a provisional session of the National Assembly in February, and the new rules will go into effect from August.

“The pharmaceutical association has decided not to protest drug selling in supermarkets in order to provide convenience to people who need to purchase drugs during holidays and at night,” a spokesman for the association said.

A new pharmaceutical law was submitted in September but has never cleared the Health and Welfare Committee at the National Assembly. Heavy lobbying by the pharmacists was the main reason. The Korean Pharmaceutical Association said the looser rules could cause serious drug abuse.

“The association has a point,” said Joo Seung-ryong, a Health and Welfare Committee member. “But I think we can bring the revised bill to the National Assembly earlier than we expected if we can provide a measure to prevent drug abuse.”

The pharmaceutical association finally accepted that more than 83 percent of the public supports the new law, according to the Health Ministry.

“Although we protest the bill, most of the association members already knew that it will eventually be passed in the future,” a member of the association told the JoongAng Ilbo. “We don’t want the nation see us as a selfish group.”

“The Health Ministry and the pharmaceutical association still have many issues for the implementation of the new law,” said Cho Joong-keun, a civic group member. “And they should consider people’s convenience when they decide which drugs should be liberalized.”

By Shin Sung-sik, Park Yu-mi [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]
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