▲ Some of the items now available at marts after declassification of many medicines. Photo by Yun Seong Un
It’s late at night and you are sick - what do you do? It wasn’t that long ago that you made do with the yujacha, or citrus tea, and got your head down until morning when the pharmacy, or yakguk opened. Thankfully, the herbal medicine racket has been smashed and your local drug purveyor is increasingly open for business, pushing all manner of remedies right up until the witching hour.
Jeju was the national pioneer in opening such late-night pharmacies earlier this year when six were chosen for the pilot scheme. There are now many more and while most pharmacies open until 6 or 7 p.m., the late-openingstores remain open until midnight and there are also some year-round establishments, all listed below.
When receiving medicine at a yakguk it will often come in small packages containing a number of pills for each dose. This might come as a surprise if you are used to a one-pill-cures-all approach, but each pill combats a particular symptom, or side-effect.
Some of the medicines that are over-the-counter at home, you need a prescription for in Korea due to tight controls. Prescriptions are available from a doctor at the appropriate clinic or hospital, but even then you may find the dose weaker than you are used to.
Repeat prescriptions are not available so you must visit your doctor once your dose runs out. Also be aware that medication may not come with dosage and usage instructions, so you should confirm these with your doctor or pharmacist before using.
General medicines vs. Specialized medicine
Medicines are divided into general medicines, available at pharmacies without prescriptions, and specialized medicines, which require a prescription.
1. Use of specialized medicines must be on a doctor’s advice and supervision in terms of dose and usage.
2. Medicines with serious side effects are classified as specialized medicines.
3. Drugs that may lead to dependence or addiction are classified as specialized, as are drugs that may lead to resistance.
Medicines that don’t correspond to these standards and have no serious side effects are generally classified as general medicines.
Source: Ministry of Food and Drug Safety
In a further move to placate the sicknotes among us, in July 2011 the government reclassified many medicines and most franchise marts now boast a pharmaceutical cabinet with basic medicines and treatments. Of the 48, 18 are digestive aids, 11 are intestinal drugs, five are ointments, two are pain relief patches and 12 are drinks products. Below are some examples.
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