French Police: Stolen Meds Sold in Cambodia

Police in France have uncovered a criminal enterprise that has defrauded the country’s national health system of tens of millions of dollars worth of prescription medicine, much of which was then resold in Cambodia, according to a news report.

At least 100 doctors across France are suspected of prescribing or obtaining antibiotics as well as psychotropic and anti-ulcer medications, which were then resold abroad, principally in Vietnam and Cambodia, but also in Africa and Eastern Europe, Le Parisien newspaper reported Thursday.

In 2006 alone, the alleged fraud amounted to over $25 million in drugs, some of which are months past their expiry date, the newspaper reported.

It was unclear how much of the medication was resold in Cam­bodia, or to whom it was sold.

“We never comment on international investigations,” Christophe Gay, a spokesman for the French national police, said by telephone from Paris on Monday.

He declined to say whether French police had traveled to Cambodia during the probe.

According to Le Parisien, participants in the racket sometimes prescribed the same drug 50 times in a row or visited multiple pharmacies to buy massive amounts of tablets, all of which were paid for by CNAM, France’s national health insurance fund.

The drugs were then packed in suitcases and flown abroad to be resold at below-retail prices, the newspaper said.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak and Moek Dara, director of the anti-drug police, both said they were unaware of the case.

Voeung Jimheang, director of the Health Ministry’s marketing, narcotics control and pharmacy department, said health professionals were allowed to import small quantities of drugs but that customs officials ought to catch large amounts hidden in people’s luggage.

Khieu Sam Ath, chief of cus­toms at Phnom Penh Inter­national Airport, could not be contacted Monday.

Health Minister Nuth Sokhom referred questions to Tea Kim Chhay, director of the food and drug department, who said she was too busy to talk to a reporter.

(Additional reporting by Prak Chan Thul)


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