South Korea lacks a systematic chain to quickly supply essential medicines, which should be available to the public in case of a major disaster, a lawmaker said Thursday.
Rep. Choi Do-ja최도자 of the opposition People’s Party said the government is inadequately prepared for the reserve of the state’s essential medicines and lacked a system to provide and transport essential drugs in case of emergency.
She said so based on data submitted for a parliamentary audit of government agencies, including the Ministry of Health and Welfare, the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety and the Health Insurance Review & Assessment Service.
Choi noted that intravenous fluids were excluded in the government’s list for the reserve of medicines, although they are one of the essential drugs for emergency patients and those hospitalized.
IV fluids not only work for hydration but also provide electrolyte, glucose, and nutrients for patient survival. They can also supply highly-concentrated antibiotics, anticancer drugs and painkillers inside the human body.
In Korea, however, 14 out of the 126 listed medicines designated as the state's essential medicines cannot be used without IV fluids.
The World Health Organization’s Model List of Essential Medicines includes seven IV fluids – glucose solution, glucose saline solution, potassium chloride injection, physiological salt solution, sodium bicarbonate, Hartmann's solution and water for injection.
Under the Emergency Resources Management Act, the Korean government should secure three-month reserve of IV fluids in case of a state emergency. However, Choi said the current IV fluids market in Korea does not guarantee such full supply.
More than 90 percent of IV fluids in the Korean market is supplied by three pharmaceutical firms – JW Pharmaceutical, CJ HealthCare and Dai Han Pharm. The factories of the three companies are fully operating already, meaning that it is almost impossible to quickly raise their capacity and transport more IV fluids in case of a state emergency or a major disaster, Choi said. The list of the state's essential medicines is too short, she added.
Currently, the food-drug safety ministry designates 126 essential medicines and 36 medicines for the state’s reserve.
In preparation for a biochemistry war, the health-welfare ministry reserves only two – smallpox vaccine and anthrax vaccine. The medicines for the state’s reserve aim at stably providing drugs to prevent and treat radiation exposure and infectious diseases. Most of such medications are those for thyroid protection and anti-virus products in preparation for a pandemic.
A food-drug safety ministry official said IV fluids were excluded from the essential medicines because the manufacturers can smoothly supply them, whereas designated essential medications are those that cannot be adequately provided by the market alone.
“If it is difficult to revise the law, officials should encourage medical institutions to preserve and manage a certain amount of medicines in case of a disaster, and the authorities take into account their effort when reviewing the medical institutions,” Choi said.
But government officials do not seem to be eager to find a solution. They are only engaging in a blame game over mismanaging emergency medicines, she added.