FTC fines doctors for colluding against rivals

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FTC fines doctors for colluding against rivals

The leading organization representing doctors has pressured medical equipment suppliers not to do business with oriental medicine clinics, the Fair Trade Commission (FTC) said.

As a result, the FTC on Sunday said it has slapped three groups representing doctors in Korea - the Korean Medical Association, National Union of Medical Doctors and Korea Medical Clinic Association - with a fine of 1.14 billion won ($1 million).

The Korean Medical Association pressured GE Healthcare between 2009 and 2012 not to sell its ultrasound devices to oriental medicine clinics, the antitrust agency said. The medical association even threatened that it would start a boycott against sales of the company’s products if it didn’t agree to its demand, the FTC said.

As a result, GE Healthcare cancelled its business with oriental medicine clinics including sales agreements for nine ultrasound devices.

GE Healthcare sales of ultrasound equipment to oriental medicine clinic dropped from 10 in 2009 to three the following year. The company has sold none since 2011. Similarly, Samsung Medison sold two ultrasound devices to oriental medicine clinics in 2009, but sold only one the following year and none between 2011 and 2015.

That was not the only action that the doctor’s associations took to limit competition.

The FTC found that between 2011 and 2014 the three organizations told major diagnostic evaluators including Green Cross not to provide services to the oriental medicine clinics.

In fact, the Korean Medical Association told the five diagnostic evaluation institutions, whose market share amounts to 80 percent, to deny blood tests requested by the oriental medicine practitioners. Some of them continued to accept requests while others agreed to stop all businesses.

The FTC said the denial of blood tests made it hard for oriental medicine doctors to diagnose or treat patients.

“The medical associations have violated the antitrust laws by limiting the medical devices suppliers and the diagnostic evaluation institutions rights including autonomy and freedom of choice in order to oust its competitions who are oriental medicine practitioners,” an FTC official said.

BY LEE HO-JEONG [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]

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