So far domestic pharmacists have fought two wars, first with medical doctors and then with herb doctors. The druggists entered into their third war just now – with veterinarians over the sale of animal drugs.
Currently, pharmacists can sell animal medicines at their stores if only they report to local administrations. The number of drugstores dealing with animal drugs totals about 4,000 as more and more people keep pets. Some pet owners buy nutritional supplements and vaccines from pharmacies and give injections at home.
Animal rights groups and veterinarians began to call for prohibiting the “self- care,” asserting the treatments of dogs and cats require professional knowledge.
It was against this backdrop the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs has modified related laws to limit owners from diagnosing and treating their pets, effective July 1. Now owners must consult a medical professional to treat sick pets.
The decision to change the law gained momentum after an episode of a popular Korean TV show called “Animal Farm” aired in May to show an owner performing surgery on his dog without visiting proper medical professionals.
However, the revision comes as a blow to the 4,000 pharmacies that cried foul at veterinarians who are “trying to gain a monopoly” on animal care. The opposition reflects their concerns about revenue drops when the law goes into effect.
Leading the latest turf war against vets are two pharmaceutical organizations -- the Korean Pharmaceutical Association (KPA) and Korean Veterinary Pharmacy Association (KVPA) -- going as far to place advertisements that criticize veterinarians.
“In the case of outlawing basic treatment such as vaccination, pet owners who cannot afford to visit animal care centers will not be able to treat their sick pets,” KVPA President Kim Sung-jin said.
In response, the ministry reflected the pharmacists’ opinion in part, by including a clause that allows owners to treat healthy pets for preventing diseases, with medication obtained at pharmacies.
However, the Korean Veterinary Medical Association (KVMA) organized a delegation last Thursday to protest the clause, going as far to say that they will turn in their practicing licenses if the ministry does not eliminate the provision.
“No other country supplies vaccines as freely as Korea does. Only professionals should inject vaccines to prevent the possibility of misuse and abuse,” a KVMA official said.
Caught in the middle of this controversy, pet owners have been left in the dark. “I don’t know whether I should be treating my pet on my own or not because different officials are offering opposing views,” said a pet owner who wished to remain anonymous.
A ministry official said some trials and errors would be inevitable until precedents accrue and the revised law takes its root.
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