In recent years, there has been a significant reduction in the amount of counterfeit medication sold in Cambodia due to global efforts to crack down on the illicit trade in fake medications, health and drug experts said yesterday.
They warned, however, that the sale of substandard drugs is still a major problem and successfully regulating drug sales remains a major challenge.
“It is being reduced, although not yet under control,” said William Mfuko, World Health Organization technical officer for essential medicines, speaking on the sidelines of a regional seminar on combating counterfeit medicines in Phnom Penh.
Mr Mfuko said surveys in 2003 and 2005 found that around 13 percent of all medicine sold in Cambodia was counterfeit, but that figure had dropped to around 2.5 percent in more recent surveys.
International operations coordinated by Interpol have closed down counterfeit drugs producers, in particular in China, and disrupted supply lines to countries including Cambodia, he said, adding, “This has caused a kind of scare to potential counterfeiters…. I don’t expect it to go up, unless we all relax again.”
“It’s a big step forward,” Mr Mfuko said. However, he added: “The problem is now with substandard [medicine]. It’s about 5 percent” of medicine sold.
Chris Raymond, regional project coordinator for the US Pharmacopeia Drug Quality and Information program, which has been working with the Cambodian government since 2002 to interdict counterfeit medication, said: “In terms of what we’re interested in, [drugs for] infectious diseases, essential medicine, in a lot of those classes, tests show counterfeit medicine has come down.”
Mr Raymond said efforts to stop illicit medicine sales include educating the public and pharmacists, medicine surveillance and testing, and international operations to stop the transnational trade in unregulated drugs.
Heng Bunkhiet, deputy director of the department for drugs and food at the Health Ministry, said there are now public information campaigns and strict laws to regulate drug sales.
Tep Lun, director-general of the Health Ministry, said most of the unregulated medicines are sold in provinces along the country’s borders and mostly includes anti-malarial and antibiotic drugs.
He said public awareness of illicit medicine is increasing, but the government lacks funds to sufficiently monitor and test medicines.
“It is hard to find out where the medicine comes from. We need officials and the public to work together,” Mr Lun said.