SEOUL, May 17 (Korea Bizwire) — A supplier of tuberculosis vaccines for infants was fined and brought to prosecution for cutting the supply of free vaccines in order to sell expensive vaccine products.
The Fair Trade Commission fined Korea Vaccine Co. 990 million won (US$830,000) and filed complaints with the prosecution against company staff for cutting the supply of the intradermal Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine to boost profits.
The BCG vaccine is used to prevent tuberculosis among infants and young children, and comes in two types: intradermal and percutaneous.
The South Korean government, based on World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations, offers intradermal BCG vaccines for free.
In South Korea, the BCG vaccine market is run on a duopoly system led by Accesspharm Inc. in charge of importing intradermal BCG vaccines, and Korea Vaccine that imports percutaneous BCG vaccines.
Production of intradermal BCG vaccines dived, however, after a Danish vaccine manufacturer was privatized and sold in 2015.
In March 2016, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) gave Korea Vaccine the rights to import intradermal BCG vaccines from Japan BCG Laboratory.
Korea Vaccine then ordered 20,000 sets of intradermal vaccines in August 2016 based upon a request from the KCDC.
But when percutaneous BCG vaccines, Korea Vaccine’s lead product, dropped in sales in September 2016, the company unilaterally cut down imports of intradermal vaccines.
Then, in 2017, the company halted all imports of intradermal vaccines.
Korea Vaccine did not consult with KCDC on the issue of cancelling the orders, and failed to notify the agency even after the order were cancelled.
Intradermal vaccines have since been suspended, compelling the KCDC to purchase highly expensive percutaneous BCG vaccines for free vaccination programs from October 2017 to June 2018, during which Korea Vaccine pulled in big profits based on increased use and overall sales of percutaneous vaccines.
The government had to invest an additional 14 billion won (US$11.7 million) to purchase percutaneous vaccines for free vaccination programs.
H. M. Kang (firstname.lastname@example.org)