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Pharmaceutical congress organizers embroiled in ‘bossiness’ controversy
  • By Song Soo-youn & Kwak Sung-sun
  • Published 2017.06.05 11:24
  • Updated 2017.06.07 10:04
  • comments 0

The “Seoul 2017 FIP World Congress,” which will open on Sept. 10 for a five-day run, is causing controversy because of organizers’ heavy-handed ways of seeking financial sponsorship.

About 15,000 people, including pharmaceutical industrialists, pharmacists, professors and students from various countries will attend this year’s congress, which will be co-hosted by International Pharmaceutical Federation 세계약사연맹(FIP), Korean Pharmaceutical Association 대한약사회(KPA), and Pharmaceutical Association 대한약학회(PSK).

A controversy arose, however, when the organizing committee sent official documents asking for the participation of pharmaceutical companies. The entry fee was 10 million won ($8,950) for setting up a display booth and up to 500 million won or more for sponsorship depending on their levels.

This is the website of “Seoul 2017 FIP World Congress.”

The committee classified participating companies into seven classes and virtually allocated the amounts of contribution: 500 million won or more for “diamond plus” class; 200 million won or more for “diamond” class; 100 million won or more for “platinum” class; 50 million won or more for “gold” class; 30 million won or more for “silver” class; 20 million won or more for “bronze” class; and 10 million won or more for “silver stone” class. For “diamond” and “diamond plus” classes, the committee will provide eight booths per company, insert the logos in their photo zones, display sponsor names on the website, and include their advertisements in the event guidebook. For “diamond plus” class, it will additionally insert logos in all event products, according to committee officials.

A pharmaceutical company official appeared embarrassed. “Even though it is an international event attracting pharmacists from all over the world, we feel quite burdensome because they ask too much money,” he said. “Most of the domestic drugmakers are just reading the face of one another.”

As the controversy spreads, the Ministry of Health and Welfare has made clear its position that the government would discipline organizers if caught pressurizing participants to contribute excessive amounts of money.

“There is a limit to what the government can do to intervene in the hosting of international meetings by officially recognized organizations,” a ministry official said. “However, we are closely watching whether there were coercive sales of display booths and other acts of coerced sponsorships.”

“We have asked KPA about the issue, but the association said that was groundless,” he said. “We heard the association wasn’t directly involved in the event because it didn’t want to give the impression of imposing strains on pharmaceutical firms. Instead, it is letting the organizing committee take the lead in all proceedings.”

The association also said it had never force anyone to buy booths or provide supportive fund.

“At a time when the domestic pharmaceutical companies are moving abroad, an event that draws thousands of pharmacists from 137 countries will surely have great PR effects,” said KPA Chairman Cho Chan-hwi조찬휘, also chief organizer of the congress, in a recent press conference, “We have not forced anyone to do anything. Critics are exaggerating, but we will host the event without causing any problems".


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