5,600 doctors, pharmacists caught taking 'rebate'
By Yun Suh-young
More than 5,600 doctors and pharmacists were caught receiving ‘rebates’, since 2010 but only 1 percent of them were punished, according to the Ministry of Health and Welfare.
The number of medical professionals taking, ‘rebates’ (an industry term) since November 2010 totaled 5,634 as of today but only 58 of these received administrative measure.
They accepted the rebates from drug makers in return for prescribing, purchasing or recommending their products. Among them, 3,069 were doctors and 2,565 were pharmacists. The amount of rebates they pocketed totaled 11.5 billion won.
The government adopted a dual punishment system in November 2010, under which both the rebate provider and those receiving the money are punished by law.
The practice, however, ceased to end because many caught resorted to lawsuits and the government’s administrative measures are often delayed or annulled. Once the pharmaceutical companies that provided the rebates are acquitted, it is difficult to punish those who received funds as well, which is why many rely on lawsuits to dodge penalties.
Out of the 58 who received administrative measures, the dual system applied to only 10 of them, eight of whom were doctors, and two pharmacists.
The dual punishment system penalizes rebate receivers in correlation to the amounts of money they were given and suspends their medical licenses for a period of between two and 12 months reciprocal to their fines.
Although regulations on rebates seem to have strengthened, the receivers are still receiving soft penalties. Nine out of 10 who received administrative measures only got two-month suspensions of their licenses because they were only fined 5 million won or less. Only one doctor who received a fine of 8 million won was suspended from working for four months.
The 48 others who were also caught receiving rebates were also penalized by having their licenses suspended because the point in time that they received funds preceded the implementation of the dual punishment system.
“Only a small number of rebate takers are punished because they only become punishable if they receive over 3 million won,” said an official from the ministry.
Those who are subject to administrative measures are people who took 3 million won or more as rebates. The government set the amount in consideration of the 2005 ruling by the Supreme Court and the standards of complaints of the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission.
Because of this rule, those who became targets of the regulations rested at only 771 out of the 5,634.