Propofol abuse, addiction increasing at alarming rate

Lee Han-soo  Published 2019.10.07  17:56  Updated 2019.10.07 17:56


A Ministry of Food and Drug Safety report has shown that more than 160,000 patients have had propofol, an anesthetic drug, more than twice a day at local clinics and hospitals over the past year.

Propofol is a highly addictive sleep anesthetic with severe side effects such as apnea.

According to the ministry’s report, 160,736 patients, including 382 minors and 44,688 elderly patients over 60, took propofol more than twice a day at local clinics and small hospitals from June 2018 to June 2019. The report also showed that 10,032 patients received the anesthetic drug for no reason.

A total of 6,895 patients had more than one dose from different medical institutions, in what is known as “propofol shopping.” Out of the 6,895, 17 patients received it five or more times in a day by visiting different hospitals.

In the report submitted to Rep. Yoon Il-kyu of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea for a parliamentary audit, the ministry highlighted the seriousness of propofol misuse. A patient, for example, took no fewer than 265 times of the propofol injection, amounting to 9,723 ml, in a year. “This means that the patient took propofol every day except for weekends,” the agency said.

The most common diagnosis for the top 100 patients who had the potent anesthetic drug was Z41 – referring to people receiving healthcare services concerning treatments made for purposes other than improving health conditions.

“Propofol is highly addictive and should be administered to a minimum and only when it is necessary for surgery,” Rep. Yoon said. “To prevent its misuse, the government, the medical community, and the patient should make a cautious approach.”

Yoon also stressed that the ministry needs to take a more active measure in controlling the substance.

“The ministry receives reports of propofol administration through the integrated drug management system,” Yoon said. “The health authorities have a list of propofol addicts and hospitals that misuse the drug, but they are doing little to rectify the situation.”

Such a broken can never prevent the mass production of addicts, the ruling party lawmaker added.

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