Have you ever been in trouble buying medicine because the pharmacy is closed or too far? Lee set-byul, a student at the Korean National University of Education, said, "Even if I feel sick at night or on holidays, I have difficulty buying medicine." Like this, when drugs are not available at the drugstore, people can buy them at convenience stores.OTC drugs, designated for purchase at convenience stores, are generic drugs that can be purchased over the counter without a prescription.
There are 13 drugs designated as OTC drugs in Korea according to a survey conducted by the Ministry of Strategy and Finance, and compared to the U.S. and Japan, they are remarkably small. Moreover, when looking at most convenience stores, you would notice that not even a few designated OTC drugs are properly available.
The reason why there are only a few types of drugs designated as OTC drugs is that the debate over the expansion of OTC drugs continues. Pharmaceutical companies are opposing the expansion of drug because of abuse and side effects of OTC drugs. If a person buys medicine at a convenience store without a pharmacist, the person will not be able to receive a proper guidance of taking medicine. However, this is being refuted through various statistics. For example, the KMA surveyed drug dealers nationwide in 2011 to see if pharmacists had the explanation about taking medicine and found that they were selling them with little or no medication counseling. In addition, the percentage of convenience store sales out of Pimpernel’s sales is about ten percent surveyed by Dong-A medicine. In other words, it is difficult to see the difference in the rate of sale of medicine in convenience store compared to general medicine sold in pharmacies. Also, in contrast to the claims made by the Pharmaceutical Association, a recent survey conducted by the Citizens' Coalition found that more than 86 percent of the population wanted to expand the drugs in convenience stores.
The biggest reason that people want to expand OTC drugs is the convenience of buying medicines when it is impossible to at a pharmacy. Recently, sales of OTC drugs increased six times more than usual during the Chuseok holidays. According to the Korea Convenience Store Industry Association, the average number of customers who buy medicine in convenience stores on a daily basis during the week amounted to50,000. Nearly half of them purchased the medicine at night and dawn.
A researcher at the Health Policy Research Institute, said, “For stable settlement of the system and safe use of medicines in the future, we need to strengthen safety education for sellers, prepare effective ways to support consumers` right choice, and conduct ongoing guidance and inspection of legal and institutional compliance.”Also, director of the ministry`s Pharmaceutical Policy Division, said, "We decided to set the safety standards after medical experts review them." It is necessary to add appropriate medicines through discussion with experts, not the reckless expansion of OTC drugs.
There is an idiom in Korea, 'overpaid'. It means 'toomuch is as bad as too little.' It appears that sufficient discussion is needed to ensure that the expansion of OTC drugs does not lead to 'overpaid
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