Fake Drugs a Persistent Danger To the Chronically Ill: Officials

Fake medicines sold in Cam­bodia are a potentially deadly threat to those suffering from chronic illnesses in­cluding malaria, tuberculosis and HIV, officials said Mon­day at the start of a three-day seminar concluding a regional sting operation.

The global police organization Interpol also announced Monday that Operation Storm, the five-month sting that ended in Septem­ber, had netted 16 million counterfeit pills valued at $6.65 million, in Cambodia, China, Burma, Laos, Thai­land, In­do­nesia, Vietnam and Singapore.

At Monday’s seminar in Phnom Penh, Health Ministry Secretary of State Chou Yinsim said that since 2000, health officials had identified 90 counterfeit treatments offered for sale in Cambodia, including antiretroviral drugs for HIV patients and anti­biotics, which may come at an attractive price but can be partially or totally ineffective.

“Whoever suffers from malaria, TB or HIV/AIDS needs long-term treatment, but it can cause a great risk to their lives whenever they use fake drugs,” he said, adding that seven licensed pharmaceutical factories produce a total of 900 medications in Cambodia while 148 im­porters are currently allowed to import more than 7,000 kinds of med­icine.

According to Health Ministry Pro­ject Coordinator Yim Yann, authorities in 2008 have identified 10 different counterfeit medications for sale in areas including Phnom Penh, Si­hanoukville and Battam­bang pro­vince.

Tracing the origin of counterfeit medications can also be difficult as manufacturers’ addresses on packaging are often falsified, he said. A US-funded “Rapid Alert System” allows the government to use laboratory testing to authenticate suspect medications, which can then be seized, Yim Yann said.

“It is not enough to eliminate the counterfeit drugs. We’ve just produced educational spots for TV, radio and magazines about the high risk of using fake drugs,” he said.

Aline Plancon, an Interpol project manager involved in combating counterfeit medicines, said Opera­tion Storm statistics for drug sei­zures specific to Cambodia were not available Monday but that Interpol be­lieves the problem is not going away.

  (Additional reporting by Douglas Gillison)

Related Stories

Exit mobile version