I miss being able to go into a 7-11 or Walmart or Costco or any number of other retailers back home and buying drugs. No, no… calm down… I don’t mean the kind of drugs that the Korean media repeatedly suggests that every foreigner uses, smuggles and sells. I mean OTC (Over the Counter) medicine that is used to treat the symptoms of common ailments such as a cold, flu, allergic reaction, digestive problem or sleep dysfunction. I like that I’m able to get Tylenol in Chicago, 5 minutes from my house, at 2:00 am, in a bottle with enough pills to get me through a miserable weekend of being sick. I like that something stronger, say a NyQuil or sleep aid, is similarly easy to obtain. It’s nice to know that I’m trusted by society at large not to take 25 aspirin in one shot, being that I’m a literate adult who can read the packaging.
Klown is a different beast entirely.
Not only do you need to go to a pharmacy (not a drug store or cosmetics-and-household-supplies-plus-meds-at-the-back store) to get things as simple as ibprofun, prune juice and Mentholatum, but you need to purchase such relief in tiny packages that are really designed only to last a couple of days. Prices per pill are outstandingly high given that a customer does not have the option of purchasing in bulk. These pharmacies are small, and generally numerous enough, but close early (compared to other Korean businesses – often before someone might arrive home sick form the office after being forced to work late) and don’t often carry a robust product line.
You can get prescriptions (from Klown “doctors” so who knows what those are worth) filled, most of the time, and if you have done so you will remember that you get odd little wax-paper baggies full of unmarked, random pills, conveniently divided into your daily doses. Again, the doses are only good for a couple of days.
I don’t know about you, but I miss getting my medicine in a nice, tiny box, upon which would be printed the manufacturer’s name and contact information, a list of active ingredients, detailed instructions, warnings about possible complications and patent numbers. Those little tiny words give me trust. They make me less anxious about putting powerful chemical compounds into my body. I don’t get that same degree of comfort from wax paper baggies. They look more like what a downtown drug dealer might sell you out of a brown paper bag and less like actual, proper medicine. As it turns out, the downtown drug dealer might have a safer product.
There are about 200-300 pharmaceutical manufacturers in Klown. That’s a huge number. Huge. It’s shocking because so very few of them actually produce original drugs. Only the very largest can afford to invest in the research and testing necessary to create new pharmaceutical products… and let’s be honest, who would want to take a locally-developed original drug? Klown pharmaceutikal kompanies don’t have the competence to succeed internationally, so they fight over the domestic market. They spend almost nothing on R&D, especially given the size of the market, the export-driven economic model (okay, okay, the copy-and-sell model) and the monopoly they have on sales.
Klown kompanies don’t produce original drugs? So then what the ever-loving fuck are 300 of these kompanies making?
Mostly these generic copies are of patent-expired drugs, but often enough they will be rip-offs from actual innovators and scientists. Klowns will claim, once a new drug hits the market, to have “found a new way to manufacture the drug”. They will search for loopholes in patents to allow them to claim an “original drug”. They will sometimes get sued in Samsung-esque style and lose big. I imagine that if even half the time and money that was spent looking for ways to circumvent patent laws – including bribes to the KFDA officials who help the process – was spent on R&D then Korea might have something to be proud of. But from an end-user standpoint, which company profits from which drug has little relevance, right? Generics are priced at about 80% of the cost of original drugs,
The way the system works here, the first kompanies to produce a generic copy of an original drug get to sell their drugs at a higher price than other kompanies submitting their drugs later. Quality differences are NOT taken into consideration. Regardless of quality, the first kompany to meet the KFDA minimum rekwirements is given the right to sell their shitty, low-kwality knock-off drug at a higher price than others. The government, meanwhile, will support the difference in the sales price to the consumer, which costs and enormous amount of money, at around 25% of the total healthcare expenditures of the Kuntry.
When a drug is copied, permission to sell the generic is submitted to the KFDA for approval. Based on which kompany’s drug is approved in which order, government subsidies are awarded on a sliding scale. In order to gain approval, a drug kompany must produce a equivalency test result, basically saying that the active ingredient in the generic is more or less the same as what is in the original.
Of course though, in true Klown fashion and inspired by their wondrous 5,000-year-old kulture, and similar to the way Klowns handle the safety of parts for their nuclear power plants, the bioequilivancy test results are often (very often according to my inside sources) falsified. The rewards for being the one of first to market (of, again, 200 kompanies) are just too attractive, especially given the ultra-competitive nature of the industry. Occasionally a kompany is caught (I guess they didn’t pay the right bribe or pick up enough checks at Seoul brothels) and given a slap-on-the-wrist fine, but the practice continues. So forget the “rebate” system of kickbacks and “black money” (bribes) in place between pharmaceutical manufacturers, hospitals and pharmacists over who pushes what generic drug, the actual quality and usefulness of the drugs themselves are highly questionable.
As a consumer, you don’t really know which kompany is producing the drug you’re taking (or that your child is taking) either. There are no identifiers on the packages that let you know what exactly is in them, let alone who manufactured them. Our downtown, paper bag drug dealer? He’s answerable to the quality of his product. Customers know where it came from and if his weed is really oregano, or his meth isn’t blue enough (I know…) or his coke is cut with too much baby powder, he won’t have return customers. In Klown, customers aren’t given enough information to know who to stop buying from if their pills are bogus. Furthermore, if someone dies from taking a cheaply-made and dangerous knock-off, it can be tough to know exactly what pill, or combination thereof, is the culprit as Klown pharmacies just throw in a half dozen various meds into the same wax paper packs. From the doctor to the pharmacists to the manufacturer, the attitude just seems to be “Hey. Trust us.”
You’d have to be a fool to. The only competent Klown doctors I’ve ever met have been those who have spent extensive amounts of time living abroad. Universities here have a 95% pass rate (though Klown students fail miserably abroad). That means that once a student has passed the standardized tests use to determine entrance to programs like medical school, their work is pretty much done. Klown students can become prescription-writing “doctors” with just a 4-year degree for programs like “traditional medicine”. Doctors back home, real doctors, go though well over a decade of grueling studies – that the weak do flunk out of – and internships before they are full fledged, trust medical caregivers. You’ll forgive me if a Klown degree doesn’t exactly impress me or inspire confidence. Same goes for the pharmacists. The drug kompanies are just snake-oil salesmen… sometimes quite literally.
I’d rather go to Namdaemun underground market and buy near-expiration-date bottles of western OTC meds than trust a Korean generic drug. Now, there have been changes made to the system here that are supposed to discourage the first-to-market incentive to cheat test results. Now the kompanies can only charge a flat rate of 53.5% of the original drug cost for their generics. But of course that means less profit. And lab tests are expensive. I don’t think this will stop falsified test results, it will just encourage the practice to spread out to include late-to-market kompanies. Of course, the rebate system of kickbacks will continue, as it does for every industry in Klown, and the end user will still end up getting fucked with low-quality meds from kompanies who couldn’t possibly give less of a fuck about research, ethics or science… let alone about your health.
There are several websites out there that allow you to order western-made OTC products online. You can also ship products relatively inexpensively to Korea from North America and Europe using freight shipping websites like malltail.com. Hopefully you won’t need to be taking your medication out of a ghetto drug baggie in future… and if you do need something that an OTC can’t cover, make certain you are getting the name-brand original drug. The doctor you visit, who is no doubt receiving “rebates” and kickbacks to push shitty generics on you, will resist your efforts to purchase the original drugs. If so, tell him to go fuck a bag of kimchi with his tiny dick and move on to a doctor who will prescribe you the original drug.