A pilot programme under which the national health insurance system covers several types of herbal medicine has been welcomed by practitioners of traditional Korean medicine but criticised by Western-trained medical doctors.
Under the pilot programme, which started on 20 November, patients at traditional Korean medicine clinics who are prescribed treatments for menstrual pain, facial paralysis, or the aftereffects of cerebrovascular diseases, pay only half of the fee for the herbal medicine, with the rest is covered by state insurance, reported The Korea Times.The three-year test run is aimed at reducing the financial burden of patients and establishing a system to ensure the safety and effectiveness of herbal medicine, according to the Ministry of Health and Welfare.Of around 8,700 clinics providing traditional Korean medical treatments across the country ? approximately 62% ? have agreed to participate in the programme.
The government has plans to expand the insurance coverage for herbal medicine following the trial programme.Western-trained doctorsThe Korea Medical Association (KMA), the largest Western medical doctors’ group in the country with more than 130,000 members, has strongly condemned the government’s move, calling it a “nationwide clinical trial using unverified medicine”.The KMA argued that safety of the traditional Korean treatments have not been adequately verified and there is no scientific evidence of their efficacy.The association also pointed out that the programme may lead to the poor quality of herbal medicine, because of a shortage of certified herbal medication dispensaries and lenient control over them. While most small traditional Korean medicine clinics have own dispensaries, some large ones have outside dispensaries make the medicine.However, Mr Park Jong-hoon, vice president of the Association of Korean Medicine (AKOM), said, “The safety and efficacy of traditional medicine has already been proven throughout the thousands of years of its development.”
He said, “Every herbal extract used in traditional therapy in Korea is strictly verified by the H-GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) set by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, which has criteria stricter than the global standard.”