The Korea Herald

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Pharmaceutical sales rep claims to have run personal errands for doctors

By Yoon Min-sik

Published : March 6, 2024 - 14:43

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This screenshot uploaded online shows a series of conversations between a private practitioner and a person claiming to be a sales representative of a pharmaceutical company. The supposed sales rep claimed to have been pressured to carry out personal errands of doctors using drugs of their company. This screenshot uploaded online shows a series of conversations between a private practitioner and a person claiming to be a sales representative of a pharmaceutical company. The supposed sales rep claimed to have been pressured to carry out personal errands of doctors using drugs of their company.

A person claiming to be a sales representative of a local pharmaceutical company recently alleged in an online post that they had been pressured into running all sorts of personal errands by and for doctors.

The person uploaded screenshots of the mobile messenger app Kakao Talk which show a 2018-2019 conversation thread between the pharmaceutical representative and a private practitioner who was the client of their drug company. In the conversation, the doctor is seen instructing the sales rep to replace the hard disk on their laptop computer, make picture frames and to review nurses resumes.

The person claimed that this particular doctor is not even the worst one, adding they are refraining from revealing messages from other doctors due to the concern of violating their privacy.

A pharmaceutical sales rep of a major drug company told The Korea Herald that while it is common for reps to pay for doctors' meals, he has not yet seen extortion to such extent. "It could be that the person (who posted the screenshot) is working for a smaller firm," he said, saying such extortion is not common at least for major pharmaceutical firms.

The uneven power dynamic between the pharmaceutical company and the doctors has long been an unspoken truth in South Korea, but it is now gaining more attention as doctors across the country protest the government plan to increase the enrollment quota for medical schools across the country by 2,000.

The Korea Pharmaceutical and Bio-Pharma Manufacturers Association, an umbrella group of pharmaceutical companies across the country, notified its members last week that there have been allegations of doctors pressuring pharmaceutical representatives to participate in protests against the announced medical school enrollment hike.

The Korean Medical Association denied such allegations, vowing legal action against those who spread such rumors online. The KPBMA took a more cautious approach in responding by saying that the association has not yet verified the claims, and that the notice was sent merely as a precaution.

Second Vice Health Minister Park Min-soo said in a press briefing Tuesday that the ministry and the police are investigating the accusation that doctors pressured pharmaceutical sales reps to partake in rallies, and vowed to take appropriate measures if the suspicion turns out to be true.