Authorities crackdown on informal pharma sales, sending drug prices up

The North Korean authorities have launched a campaign to confiscate informally-traded products in the name of cracking down on anti-socialism trends, report inside sources.

“Crackdowns and product confiscations have been leveled at residents who are selling products from their private homes without a permit,” an inside source from North Hamgyong Province told Daily NK during a telephone call on June 1.

“Just in the city of Chongjin alone, dozens of families have been targeted, resulting in significant penalties.”

“A number of individuals who hold pharmaceutical licenses or a doctor’s certification, but not a sales license, have also been subjected to the crackdowns. Some have lost all their inventory and sales proceeds, making it difficult for them to survive,” the source continued.

According to a separate source in North Hamgyong Province, the financial losses are significant. Of the known victims, the individual subjected to the lowest penalty was fined 10,000 yuan (about US$1,550).

In addition, the authorities have cracked down on merchants who have been distributing wholesale shipments of drugs from the Nanam Pharmaceutical Factory, located in North Hamgyong Province, Chongjin City. The products were being sold throughout the country.

The coordinated seizure of informally sold drugs is being seen as part of wider efforts by the authorities to consolidate control over the nation’s drug sales.

Both sources explained that the problem with the approach is that sick and ailing residents who rely on these drugs have no alternative means to acquire them. With the state unable to provide medicine to the vast majority of the population, many residents have turned to the markets to procure the drugs they need.

“Because of this development, domestic medicine prices have climbed beyond the reach of most people, and so they are instead seeking out decent Chinese alternatives,” the additional source said.

Table showing recent rise in pharmaceutical prices as of May 2018. All prices shown in KPW. Data: Daily NK
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