Government sits idly by amid shortage of cold medicine

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Cold medicines, including antipyretics and anti-inflammatory painkillers, are extremely scarce due to the recent spike in Covid-19 cases in Korea.


However, the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety is holding back and leaving drugmakers and distributors to deal with the supply shortage on their own.


The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety is not actively responding to the shortage of cold medicine amid the resurgence of Covid-19 cases, observers have said.


On August 1, the Ministry of Health and Welfare sent a letter to medical institutions asking for cooperation regarding the insufficient supply of cold medicine.


In the letter, the ministry said particular drugs such as antipyretics, anti-inflammatory painkillers and cold syrups for children should be in short supply as they could help improve symptoms of Covid-19.


The ministry advised doctors to prescribe tablets to pediatric and adolescent patients and check the Drug Utilization Review (DUR) system to prescribe only the required amount.


With growing concerns over the shortage of cold medicines, the MFDS also resumed monitoring the supply and demand of cold medicines earlier this month.


The MFDS suspended surveillance on July 4 but resumed it on August 1 after Covid-19 cases increased. On the watch list are 1,839 articles from 181 pharmaceutical companies.


On August 8, the MFDS also announced that it would set up a “Cold Medicine Swift Response” system to provide information on 10 essential cold medicines requested weekly by the Korea Pharmaceutical Association and other cold medicines. colds that can replace them.


The MFDS said the 181 companies monitored should access the cold medicine response system every Wednesday to check their products and enter whether they can supply them based on their stock status.


The MFDS said the system would help pharmacies request supplies of particular drugs directly from wholesalers or pharmaceutical companies.


However, industry officials said there was a gap between the government’s oversight of the supply of cold medicine and the Cold Medicine Swift Response system.


complained that even after checking inventory in the system and requesting additional supplies from distributors, they could not receive cold medicine.


An MFDS official said the cold medicine response system needed industry cooperation.


“If some cold medicines show a blank status indicating whether supply is possible on Wednesday morning, the ministry will contact the company to enter the status by Wednesday,” the official said.


Still, the MFDS declined to comment on whether the regulator punishes a company that fails to cooperate with the cold medicine response system.


Regarding blind spots in the MFDS response system, the MFDS official said cooperation between individual pharmaceutical companies and wholesalers is “a must” to effectively manage the cold medicine response system, led by medical/pharmaceutical groups and pharmaceutical/distribution associations.


The official added that if a drug wholesaler or manufacturer receives a supply request from a pharmacy that confirms the availability of supply in the system, they must actively supply the requested drug even if the pharmacy is not his current client.

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