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Japanese hospital conducting clinical trials on Korean patients

A report in the Mainichi Shimbun has the Korean press talking:

A clinic in the Hakata Ward of the prefectural capital has been conducting stem cell treatment still in its developmental stages on hundreds of South Korean patients per month, it has been learned.

The facility in question is the Hakata branch of Shinjuku Clinic, which opened its doors in May near JR Hakata Station as a dermatology clinic. The treatments being conducted are banned under South Korea’s Pharmaceutical Affairs Law, but are not under any legal restrictions in Japan.

RNL Bio Co. — a biotechnology venture based in Seoul — refers South Korean patients to the clinic, where numerous Japanese doctors intravenously administers stem cells cultured and stored by RNL, sources close to the clinic say. Of the nearly 500 Korean patients who receive treatment at the clinic per month, most return to their home country on the same day of treatment.

The Korean Ministry of Health—and, judging from the Mainichi report, the Japanese Ministry of Health—are not amused with either the Japanese hospital or the Korean biotech firm doing the patient introductions:

“Stem cell treatment needs to be authorized, and the company has yet to receive approval for the safety and effectiveness of its treatment,” said an official at the Ministry of Health and Welfare here.

The manufacture and sale of unauthorized drugs carries a penalty of up to five years in prison or a W20 million (US$1=W1,074) fine. The official added Korean laws prohibit advertising or soliciting patients for commercial purposes and said authorities here are trying to find out whether the company violated the regulations. The offence carries a maximum three-year prison term or a W10 million fine.

The Mainichi Shimbun on Saturday said a hospital in Fukuoka administers stem cell treatments to around 500 Korean patients a month. It said the Hakata branch of Shinjuku Clinic, which opened in May as an ostensible dermatology clinic, is injecting stem cells cultured and stored by RNL Bio, a Seoul-based biotech venture.

Interestingly enough, RNL Bio is a partner of the Houston-based biotech firm that performed stem cell surgery on Texas governor Rich Perry.

Sometimes it scares the living crap out of me when I think about what technology is now capable of. At the same time, I can’t help but feel we are living in truly extraordinary times.

On the Korean side, I’m sure a lot of folk understand why patients would go to Japan for experimental procedures they could not get in Korea. Still, hearing a hospital say something like “We’re somewhat in a preparatory stage, with South Korean patients as our subjects, but we’d like to administer this treatment to Japanese patients in the future” cuts a little too close to Unit 731 for comfort.

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  • Jang

    I hope the mailbox address where the results of those “clinical trials” are to be sent in S. Korea is being watched so the police can arrest the co-conspirators and co-workers.  It’s like receiving wacky tobacky(pot) in your mailbox.

  • http://www.facebook.com/john.brandt.3914 John Brandt

    It would seem that the reference to 731 is out of place; surely the Koreans receiving the procedures volunteered to do so. Doesn’t it seem likely that most of them would have opted for it because they faced life threatening illnesses and had no where to turn in Korea for hope?

  • Anonymous_Joe

    I don’t think the references are entirely out of place.

    On the Korean side, I’m sure a lot of folk understand why patients would go to Japan for experimental procedures they could not get in Korea. Still, hearing a hospital say something like “We’re somewhat in a preparatory stage, with South Korean patients as our subjects, but we’d like to administer this treatment to Japanese patients in the future” cuts a little too close to Unit 731 for comfort.”

    That sounds like Japan’s government has not approved the procedure for testing on Japanese, but approves the procedure within Japan’s jurisdiction for testing on foreigners.  Granted the guinea pigs are volunteers, but apparently Japanese can’t volunteer to be guinea pigs.  Japan’s policy seems to value Japan’s citizens above the others.

    As another concern, if this is a double blind study, some participants are traveling to Japan for placebo administrations of the treatment.  Also, the treatment might not even be past the determination of whether the treatment does more harm than good.  

    In short, I am suspicious and detect a foul odor.

  • http://www.facebook.com/john.brandt.3914 John Brandt

    OOp.. didn’t see that part about ‘hopefully treating Japanese in the future’. That does sound fishy.

  • http://www.globalasianculture.com Liz

    Plus we need a few patients from China, ex-colonial Burma, and the philippines, and the picture is complete.

  • bumfromkorea

    There’s a reason we don’t just test drugs/treatments on humans without thorough preceding process, especially serious/fatal diseases; you cannot reasonably obtain that patient’s consent (even by the sketchy modern standard) because the patient is by default under a huge pressure to go with whatever.

    I wouldn’t say unit 731, but more like Tuskegee in terms of the seriousness of the ethical breach by both companies involved.

  • Jakgani

    If the patients are able to leave on the same day and return to Korea – it’s not really a trial is it?

    It seems to be more for the money.

    Medical clinical trials are usually only conducted on in-patients who are staying at the hospital for a while, so they can be monitored and observed.

  • SomeguyinKorea

    According to the Chosun Ilbo, the hospital claims the injections treat diabetes, heart ailments, rheumatism and Parkinson’s disease.  Shouldn’t they be aiming a little less wider if this is legit research?

  • ig5959292ee

    kinda disturbing stuff

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    Is this sort of stuff par for the course with Japan? karma….

  • provIdence

    Typically Korean (crime).