Why do Asian doctors give you so much medicine?

I went in for an H1N1 test here in Korea and was told I just had a cold but came out with a prescription for five (!) drugs, none of which I even bothered getting from the chemist’s.

One reason doctors in Japan, Korea and Thailand (my three Asian countries) give so many drugs is that local patients demand them. I’d always assumed that was part of the Asian optimism about science and the future in general and lack of worries about chemicals such as food additives, with maybe a bit of risk-adverse doctors being more likely to be condemned for doing too little rather than too much and some profit to the doctors. According to an article I read yesterday by an American doctor in Korea, though, it is because giving drugs to restore the body’s balance ties in with the ancient Chinese concept of chi (ki in Japanese), being a kind of mystic energy. He said that Western patients thanked him for giving them no treatment, whereas Korean patients demand injections. Certainly ties in with the “more weird stuff is better” philosophy of traditional Chinese medicine.



  1. Bond said,

    January 31, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    That, or it comes from the fact that drugs are not insanely and unethically expensive as they can be in America.
    In Western Europe too, you’ll be given about 5 different drugs for a cold, and there’s no such thing as “mord weird stuff is better” belief

  2. alexcase said,

    January 31, 2010 at 11:42 pm

    Never went to a doctor in Italy or Spain, but it doesn’t surprise me. Well, they do say that Africa starts at the Pyrenees, and I have also added that Asia starts at the Alps… As ever, I throw in every explanation I can find and am always ready for more

  3. Michael said,

    February 8, 2010 at 10:05 am

    This is my industry. Let me explain. In Japan, doctors only get about $35 for a patient visit. Hence the 5 minute appointments, getting a number deli style and checking on the internet when your turn is near.

    However, doctors also get to bill the government/health insurance agencies a fee for prescribing drugs which can be as high as the visit fee for EACH drug; hence the incentive to give you a few drugs.

    Also, still many doctors dispense the medications themselves or did you ever notice how the pharmacy is right next to or across the street from your doctor. So they get to capture the retail mark-up as well.

    Although generic drugs are available in Japan; they have less than 20 % market share. This is because the MR (Medical Representative or Sales Rep in Western speak) is close with the prescribing doctor and organizes gokons (drunken group dates where it is easy to lay the nurses….) as well as probably takes the doctor out to fuzoku as part of his “sales duties.”

    In summary, doctors make more on the drug end than the seeing patient end combined with J blowjob capitalism.

    Let me know if you have further questions.

  4. crella said,

    February 9, 2010 at 10:38 am

    I work in a clinic. The drug store is next door, the clinic has no interest in it, gets nothing from it, it’s in that location for patients’ convenience.

    It’s 70 points for the houshou sen.

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