Medicine wholesalers in Cambodia still do not have a clear idea of what counterfeit medicines are, according to a study by the Ministry of Health and Japanese researchers.
The study’s authors, including the Health Ministry’s Food and Drug Department Director Heng Bun Kiet, interviewed 62 registered wholesalers of modern medicine in Cambodia on their knowledge and practices related to counterfeiting medicines.
“A major proportion of wholesalers are not properly informed on issues of counterfeit medicines and how to handle such cases,” the study said in its conclusion.
According to the study’s results, 59.7 percent of the wholesalers surveyed defined counterfeit medicine as medicine from unregistered companies, while at least eight wholesalers, or about 12.9 percent, did not know the meaning of the word.
Though 66.1 percent of the wholesalers checked that the medicines they received were from a registered company—which is now the lawful practice—only 9.7 percent of wholesalers checked the analytical authorization of the products, which is supposed to inform wholesalers of the products’ ingredients and legitimacy.
“To protect the supply chain of pharmaceutical products from the intrusion of counterfeit medicines, distributors and wholesalers should be oriented and sensitized to countermeasures against counterfeit medicines,” the study said.
According to the study, wholesalers and distributors of medicines are the point of entry for most counterfeit drugs, while the Health Ministry defined counterfeit medicine broadly, such as medicine with incorrect or unregistered active ingredients medicine with mislabeled ingredients, or medicine repackaged by an unauthorized person.
William Mfuko, World Health Organization (WHO) technical officer for essential medicines, said that counterfeit drugs in Cambodia have dropped to just 0.3 percent, though other studies have put it at a higher number.
In 2004, the ministry, in cooperation with the WHO, found that 21.13 percent of medicines on sale in the country were counterfeit.
(Additional reporting by Phorn Bopha)