The National Malaria Center is joining officials from Phnom Penh’s health department to root out fake drug suppliers who they say endanger the lives of malaria patients.
The raiding teams are a new effort to solve a problem that emerged several years ago with the appearance of fake drugs in markets and pharmacies across Cambodia, officials say.
But the teams so far have been unable to locate any pharmaceutical wholesalers or retailers selling fake drugs, said Seur Sother, an official from the malaria center.
“There are some pharmacies selling it. But we cannot find it. They hide it away,” she said.
Seur Sother and her colleague Oeun Chanthy spent two days this week going from pharmacy to pharmacy, posing as customers looking to buy cheap drugs for malaria.
At shops in Phsar Tuol Tumpong, Oeun Chanthy said he owned a pharmacy in Battambang province’s Samlot district and was looking for a cheap cure for malaria. One shop owner said fake drugs were not for sale, but offered Chinese-manufactured Artesunate, which, along with Mefloquine, are popular treatments for the mosquito-borne disease. Fake drugs usually come from Vietnam, she said.
“I do not sell fake Artesunate or Mefloquine,” said the pharmacist, asking not to be named. “The fakes cannot help anyone at all; they only kill a patient.”
The pharmacist then reached into a drawer and showed an information poster issued by the National Malaria Center last year. The poster depicts the differences between fake drugs and real drugs.
“A well-educated doctor does not sell the fakes,” she said.
Malaria center officials said their inspections were difficult because it seemed word of the surprise visits had spread.
“I believe there is some fake medicine at pharmacies around Olympic market. But the sellers are hiding them….They get to know about our inspections very fast, one by one,” said Ngau Vanthon, chief pharmacist at the malaria center.
Officials said they were waiting to be joined by even more inspectors from the municipality later this week. Ngau Vanthon said she would be changing some of the inspection tactics to fool shop owners. The inspectors still don’t have the authority to make arrests or confiscate fake drugs, but can report their findings to City Hall.
A continued crackdown on fake drugs could only help malaria sufferers, she said.
“Some pharmacy owners do not know about [the dangers] of fake medicine,” she said. “What they think about is making money.”