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Korea Vaccine fined for limiting BCG imports

May 17,2019
Korea’s corporate regulator has fined a local vaccine importer for manipulating tuberculosis vaccine supply in order to reap more profit.

The Fair Trade Commission (FTC) said Thursday that it fined Korea Vaccine, which exclusively imported Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccines from 2015 to 2018, 990 million won ($832,800) for violating fair trade laws on unfair control of supply.

It also reported the company and its chief executive to the prosecutors.

The corporate regulator found that the company had canceled orders in 2016 and 2017 of a cheaper intradermal injection form of the vaccine to sell more of the expensive percutaneous version that is administered through a rubber stamp-like device.

BCG vaccines are administered to infants to prevent tuberculosis and the intradermal form is a mandatory vaccine provided for free by the government.

The market price for the percutaneous version is around 27,000 won.

The actions by the company came after SSI, a Denmark-based vaccine maker, was privatized in 2015 and its vaccines imported through another local importer were halted, leaving Korea Vaccine as the only importer of BCG vaccines in the country.

According to the FTC, Korea Vaccine gradually decreased orders in 2016 for the intradermal form of the vaccine from Japan-based JBL and canceled orders for the vaccine altogether in 2017 in order to boost sales for the expensive percutaneous version.

This led to a shortage of the free version of the vaccine, leaving health authorities to provide the percutaneous model for free temporarily from October 2017 to June 2018.

The FTC said Korea Vaccine’s monthly sales rose by 63.2 percent during the period compared to the month prior to the government measure and that the supply manipulation cost the government 14 billion won.

“Ultimately, this would have not happened if there was an alternate supply source,” said an FTC official. “Health authorities are currently working with local manufacturers to create an intradermal version.”

The regulator said this was the first time in 20 years a company has been punished for wrongful control of supply.


BY CHAE YUN-HWAN [chae.yunhwan@joongang.co.kr]