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Korea Vaccine fined for manipulating TB vaccine market

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Christian Fernsby |
Korea Vaccine fined
Asia   Korea Vaccine fined

Korea Vaccine, a drug maker that imports most of the tuberculosis (TB) vaccines used in Korea, was fined and referred to the prosecution for manipulating the import of vaccines for babies to maximize profit, according to the Fair Trade Commission (FTC).


Public uproar is growing over the firm's practice as the manipulation caused a nationwide shortage of TB vaccines in 2017, which stirred fear among parents of infants.

According to the FTC, it fined Korea Vaccine 990 million won ($832,000) and filed complaints with the prosecution against ranking company officials for deliberately stopping the import of the intradermal injection-type Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine in 2017.

The BCG vaccine is designed to prevent TB in infants and children. There are two types intradermal and percutaneous. The former is a typical type of injection with a syringe and is free through a state program. The latter uses a stamp with nine needles and costs 70,000 won. It is 10 to 18 times more expensive.

There are three BCG vaccines licensed in Korea: the injection-type vaccine by Denmark's Statens Serum Institut (SSI), and injection- and stamp-types by the Japan BCG Laboratory (JBL).

Korea Vaccine has been mostly importing JBL's stamp-type vaccine, but also started importing the Japanese firm's injection-type in 2016 when the Danish injection-type was halted in September 2015 amid SSI's privatization.

The FTC said this gave Korea Vaccine a monopoly for nearly three years. The company exploited this by stopping its import of JBL's injection-type vaccine in 2017, forcing more parents to choose the more expensive percutaneous vaccines.


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