In a recent update, South Korea’s National Health Insurance Program outlined plans to also cover the cost of standard of care (SOC) for patients participating in clinical trials [1]. While the exact structure of the policy reform and reimbursement system is yet to be released; this news is of considerable benefit to the South Korea’s clinical trial industry and sponsors.

South Korea is one of the leading countries in Asia for clinical trials [2] and delivers one of the most efficient clinical trial approval timelines in the world. With its medical institutions and practices leading international standards; South Korea is recognized as a global leader in clinical research, standing as a Top 10 location worldwide in terms of the number of studies conducted annually [3]

At present, sponsors undertaking clinical trials in South Korea are responsible for covering the cost of SOC of patients enrolled in their trials. Depending on the SOC, this financial burden can significantly increase clinical trial costs for sponsors [4] – resulting in some sponsors undertaking clinical trials in rare diseases or oncology with high cost SOCs, for example, choosing to progress their trials in countries with cheaper SOC costs [5].

“The decision to reimburse the standard of care for patients in clinical trials could translate to a 24-35% difference in cost for sponsors [4]. This potential difference significantly enhances South Korea’s attractiveness as a clinical trial destination,” said Novotech Executive Director for Asia Operations Dr. Yooni Kim, “For sponsors considering Asia for their next clinical trial, South Korea will be able to present yet another convincing reason for being a key country of choice – that of globally competitive patient standard of care costs.” 

For more information about the untapped clinical trial benefits available in South Korea, download a free copy of the Frost & Sullivan white paper, ‘Asia: Preferred Destination for Clinical Trials’.

Or to find out more about undertaking a clinical trial in South Korea, feel free to contact us.


[1] Reliable Ministry of Government Legislation, ‘Regulation for Criteria for Providing Reimbursed Services in the National Health Insurance’ [Effective on 29 Jun 2017, Enforcement Regulation of the Ministry of Health and Welfare, No. 506, partially amended on 29 Jun 2017] 

[2] Frost & Sullivan, Asia: Preferred Destination for Clinical Trials, 2017

[3] Korea National Enterprise for Clinical Trials (KoNECT)

[4] Korea National Enterprise for Clinical Trials (KoNECT), ‘Study on institutional support for strengthening competitiveness of clinical trial’; Kim, Yeul-Hong; Korean Cancer Study Group; 'If only the cost of medical treatment is borne by the health insurance, the average cost of performing the clinical research under the current system is about 70%. If the standard cost of medical treatment and examination are all borne by the health insurance, the average cost is 53%.’

[5] Novotech client experience, confidential