Ministry Continues Battle Against Fake Pharmaceuticals

In an ongoing effort to com­bat the public health men­ace of counterfeit drugs, Ministry of Health of­fi­cials said they plan to launch a new offensive next month to crack down on fake and substandard me­d­ication.

The battle to fight sham phar­m­a­­ceuticals is part of a 2004 plan by the ministry, which set aside funds to heighten public awareness about the dangers of fake drugs and to enhance cooperation among different agencies to stop fake-drug manufacturers.

According to health officials, the counterfeit medication, which in­cludes antibiotics, anti-tuberculosis and anti-malaria drugs, is ineffective at best but can also lead to drug resistance and even death in some cases.

“There are people who died af­ter using counterfeit drugs, but we have no official study on how ma­ny people have been killed by fake drugs,” said Yim Yann, president of the Pharmacists As­so­ci­a­tion of Cambodia.

In a recent newsletter of the So­ci­ety for Malaria Control in Cam­bodia, health officials said that fake me­dication has reached an “alarm­ing proportion in Cambodia and its neighbors.”

Officials believe that some counterfeit drugs are produced domestically, but that most are smuggled in through Cambodia’s porous bor­­ders.

A World Health Organization-funded study conducted by the Ministry of Health in 2002 showed that 13 percent of medication sold in markets in Phnom Penh and the five outlying provinces was ei­ther fake or ineffective. Among im­ported drugs not registered with the ministry, one out of five turned out to be either counterfeit or substandard.

Poor people are particularly at risk because they are tempted by the lower prices of bogus drugs, said the WHO study.

Health officials pointed out that un­regulated pharmacies are a factor behind the dangerous fake drugs. “But their number is de­creasing at the present time,” Yim Yann said. “We found out that there are less than 100 pharmacies in Phnom Penh operating without a license.”

The ministry has the responsibility of inspecting and licensing  all pharmacies based on a 1996 law.

The US Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tration estimates that counterfeit drugs account for more than 10 per­cent of the global medicine mar­ket while in developing countries such as Cambodia, nearly a quarter of all medicine sold may be counterfeit or substand­ard.

(Additional reporting by Kuch Naren)



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