The government is running a pilot health insurance project which reimburses the costs of herbal medicine, in the face of opposition largely from Western-trained medical community.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare will spend KRW150bn ($136m) on the three-year nationwide project which was started last November, reported Korea Biomedical Review.

Under the pilot scheme, reimbursements are in respect of three illnesses: facial nerve paralysis, cerebrovascular disease’s side effects (aged 65 or more), and menstrual pain – and will reimburse 50% of the drug’s price once a year for 10-day administrations and twice a year for five-day administrations.

However, related sectors – doctors, pharmacists, and even some herbal doctors for different reasons – are opposing the government’s reimbursement plans. Unlike pharmaceuticals, doctors say, herbal medicines have not undergone procedures to prove their safety and efficacy.

In general, drugs should receive sale approval from the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety only after securing safety and effectiveness through a four-stage clinical trial. The whole process takes more than a decade.

All parties involved point out that herbal medicines have to first validate their safety and efficacy before their costs are to be covered. 

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