As an online video claiming that dog dewormer fenbendazole could cure cancer went viral, cancer patients conducted “voluntary clinical trials,” trying the canine treatment on themselves in desperate hope. The medical industry had significant legal issues, including the Constitutional Court’s ruling that the 66-year-old anti-abortion law was unconstitutional. Hospitals suffered the worst shortage of physicians this year. The sudden death of Yoon Han-deok, chief of the National Emergency Medical Center, who died of a heart attack at his office, and a patient’s murder of Lim Se-won, a psychiatrist at Kanguk Samsung Hospital, have cast light on doctors’ overwork and safety issues. Amid the controversy over the appointment of Cho Kuk as the minister of justice, his daughter’s being listed as the lead author in a paper published in a medical journal during her high school time became the center of the controversy. Korea Biomedical Review has compiled the 10 biggest medical stories in 2019. —Ed.
W.L. Gore & Associates, the sole provider of artificial vessels used in heart surgery, withdrew its products from the domestic market in September 2017. The Korean Society for Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery and the Korean Society of Interventional Vascular Surgery strived but failed to stop Gore from leaving. The only way to save heart patients was to stock up artificial vessels.
As the stocks ran out early this year, however, Korean children with congenital heart diseases could not receive urgent surgery and desperately waited for Gore to supply the vessels. The issue drew more social attention than the one over the company's withdrawal from Korea two years ago.
Amid mounting public pressure, the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety said in March that it would discuss supply resumption with Gore. On March 15, the ministry held an urgent video conference with the manufacturer to secure 20 artificial blood vessels.
However, no further discussions have progressed between the government and Gore since the supply of the 20 vessels. Then, patients started to take their own actions to persuade Gore to resume supply.
The Korea Congenital Heart Disease Patient Group warned that it could "wield its force" to pressure Gore and the discussion started to progress from there.
The patient group vowed to make the artificial vessel supply shortage known to the general public, saying although Gore Medical’s revenue from Korea might be small, that from Gore Korea selling outdoor clothes and industrial materials was large.
In the end, Gore agreed to supply 11 models of vessels and three models of cardiovascular patches in Korea.
However, physicians criticized the government for failing to provide a timely policy when new medical products keep coming into the market.
The government set the reimbursement for a quick meningitis test lower than the cost of the test, making patients impossible to get the quick exam.
Due to the low reimbursement, the manufacturer of the test panel stopped supplying the product. The medical community has requested a review on the decision of the reimbursement for the quick meningitis test, but the review is still ongoing for nine months.
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