First ‘New Meta House’ Exhibit Explores Counterfeit Drugs

A new exhibit exploring the dangers of counterfeit drugs and posing contrasting images of harm and healing opened Friday night at the German Cambodian Cultural Center.

“Pharmacide,” the first exhibit of the newly formed GCCC, a collaboration of Goethe-Institut, Meta House and Art Plus foundation, is intended to raise awareness about the fake drugs.

Christopher Raymond, South­east Asia project coordinator for the NGO US Pharmacopeia, one of the exhibit’s sponsors, stressed the im­portance of public knowledge of counterfeit medicines in the effort against their circulation.

“The lack of public awareness is a supply and demand issue,” Mr Ray­mond said. “So if we can raise public awareness and…they are aware of the fact that they should buy regulated products from li­censed pharmacies, then you can tend to reduce the demand of counterfeit products.”

“Pharmacide” features the works of 11 leading Cambodian artists, including Chhim Sothy, Hen Sophal and Hanh Ratha. Each painting, sculpture or image conveys the artist’s interpretation of the harmful effects of counterfeit drugs, often combining symbols of death and healing. Mr Ratha’s “Face Off” from the four-part ensemble “Come to help or kill” depicts Pacman, the 1980s-era arcade-game character, and a skull on either side of a pill.

“Medicine has a duality quality to it, like a double-edge sword or weapon with two faces,” Mr Ratha wrote in a statement. “Either it can kill you, or save your life depending on the quality of the drug.”

The exhibit, also funded by USAID and a patron from the Cecil and Hilda Lewis Charitable Trust, will be followed by a public-awareness poster campaign about the use of counterfeit medicines. One artwork from “Pharmacide” will be chosen by the artists and the exhibit’s patrons to be reprinted on posters that will be distributed to areas with high-levels of malaria, as ineffective counterfeit anti-malarial medications are considered the most dangerous counterfeited drugs in Cambodia, said Mark Hammond, an American filmmaker who initiated the exhibit and has worked on documentaries for US Pharmacopeia.

“Pharmacide” is one part of a five-year initiative started by Mr Ham­mond and Mr Raymond against the circulation of counterfeit drugs in the Mekong region and worldwide. The initiative includes public service an­nounce­ments to be broadcast in Vietnam, Laos and Thailand and three documentaries investigating counterfeit medicines in Cambo­dia, the Mekong region and the world.

According to a 2006 World Health Organization article, counterfeit-drug sales could reach $75 billion globally in 2010 if circulation isn’t curbed.

Nico Mesterharm, director of the GCCC, said that art should also be used as a medium to tackle social issues, like the trafficking of counterfeit medicines.

“Art should also take on the subjects that are crucial for the development of this country,” said Mr Mesterham.

“Pharmacide” is open until July 17.

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