Ministry Looking To Boost Domestic Manufacturing of Drugs

In a bid to reduce imports of phar­maceuticals, the Minister of Health said he is hoping to allocate up to $2 million to spur the do­mestic manufacture of easily produced medication.

“We would like to promote some domestic pharmaceutical products in order to strengthen the capacity to control the drug situation in the country,” said Health Minister Nuth Sokhom on Thursday.

“We want to cooperate with the private sector to improve the quality of the drugs, in particular.”

He said that the hoped-for 2006 health ministry budget allocation

—which he said he is currently lobbying Ministry of Finance of­fi­cials for—would go towards boosting local production of such cheaply manufactured items such as ace­tamino­phen, a pain killer that also re­duces fever, and Vita­min C pills, if ap­proved.

Currently, Cambodia has six re­gis­tered pharmaceutical manufacturers making up to 200 varieties of drugs, according to health officials.

Cambodia imports medi­cation from a wide range of na­tions, in­clu­ding India, China and neigh­bor­ing countries Thailand and Viet­nam.

Officials at the recently opened Pakistani Embassy said they were planning to host a pharmaceutical exhibition in Phnom Penh in March to tout their nation’s drug ex­­ports.

On the public health front, Nuth Sokhom said the ministry is battling the influx of fake or substandard drug imports by forcing all manufacturers to clearly show their company name, their products’ in­gredients and a registration number confirming that the drug has been approved by government health inspectors.

Chroeng Sokhan, vice director of the ministry’s department of drugs and food, said last month that close to half of the medication brands stocked in pharmacies across the nation were not approved by the government.

Officials believe that a small portion of fake or substandard pharmaceuticals is produced domestically, but that the large majority of the sham drugs are smuggled in through the nation’s porous borders.

For years, global health of­ficials have considered China and In­dia as the biggest counterfeit drug producing and exporting centers.

Some counterfeit drugs include cheap generic drugs sold in the packaging of more costly brand equivalents or products with no active ingredients at all.

But the most dangerous type are fakes that actually contain toxic in­gredients. Counterfeit antimalarial drugs were responsible for the deaths of at least 30 Cambodians in 1999, ac­cording to the US Centers for Di­sease Control and Prevention.

Local health officials say that large numbers of Cambodians are still put at risk and even die from in­gesting fake or substandard drugs.

Under Cambodia’s law, anyone who produces, smuggles or sells phar­maceuticals that are detected to be shams or have reached their ex­piration date risk penalties from $5,000 to $12,500 and up to 10 years in prison.

The World Health Organization has estimated that as much as 10 per­cent of the global medicine market may be comprised of fraudulent pharmaceuticals. As much as 70 percent of the sham drugs circulate through de­velop­ing countries, according to the WHO.

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