The European Commission’s malaria-control program has discovered another variety of fake malaria drugs being sold in the western provinces of Cambodia, said Jan Rozendaal, an adviser to the program.
In mid-October, officials from the malaria control program discovered two fake malaria drugs that were passed off as Mefloquine and Artesunate, two of the most popular malaria treatment drugs in Cambodia.
Tests conducted by three separate laboratories showed the drugs did not contain any medication and were placebos.
Since then, the Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization, the National Malaria Center and the European Commission’s malaria control program have been working together to resolve the situation.
But about a week ago, staff members of the European Commission program discovered another fake called Meflam, whose packaging closely resembles the one for the real Meflam, a malaria treatment drug that is too expensive for most Cambodians to buy, Rozendaal said.
The fake Artesunate also looks almost exactly the same as the real product, making it difficult for people to tell the difference between the ineffective and effective drugs.
“The makers of the fakes are getting better and better,” Rozendaal said.
The packaging for the fake Meflam and the fake Mefloquine claims the products are made by the Australian company Gateway Pharmaceuticals, which produces the real Meflam.
Health experts are extremely worried about the fake drugs because they say people who have malaria could die if they take the ineffective drugs.
Officials have been publicizing the existence of the fake drugs through the media.
Posters showing what the fake drugs look like also have been made and will be put up in hospitals, markets and other public places.
NGOs focusing on health care also have been notified of the existence of the fake drugs and will help in distributing the posters.
The European Commission is also conducting a nationwide survey to see how available the fake drugs are in markets and drug stores.
There are other malaria treatment drugs available, but the fake ones are inexpensive, and therefore are more popular, Rozendaal said.