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Drug import data digested

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Packets of over-the-counter drugs are seen at a pharmacy in Phnom Penh. The Ministry of Health has reported a strong increase in the value of drugs and medical equipment imported into the Kingdom. Photo by: Pha Lina

THE value of drugs and medical equipment imported to Cambodia increased more than 10 percent last year, in an increase the Ministry of Health claimed reflected improving medical services.

The value of pharmaceutical imports was reported by the Ministry of Commerce this week to have reached US$118 million in 2010, a 11 percent increase on $106 million in 2009.

The amount imported increased around 22 percent to 14,998 tonnes.

The increase follows Business Monitor International marking the Kingdom’s pharmaceutical sector as having “high growth potential” in a report last August, despite counterfeit drugs being “a major constraint on legitimate drug market growth”.

Pharmacists yesterday said that imported drugs were the medicines of choice for most Cambodians, with drug demand increasing annually.

Koy Parady, manager of Pharmarcie De La Gare, on Monivong Boulevard in Phnom Penh, said most people holding a doctor’s prescription asked for imported medicine, due to a perception that it was of higher quality.

Currently, only seven pharmaceutical manufacturers in Cambodia produce drugs, according to the Ministry of Health.

The Ministry believes better health care services were also a factor in increasing medical imports.

Lo Vesnakiri, director of the Department of Planning and Health Information at the Ministry, said yesterday that significant numbers of health centres and hospitals were being established.

“I think drugs and medical equipment imports will further increase, if more health care services are provided,” he said.  

According to his figures, 1,019 health centres were established last year while 88 hospitals were built.

The increase, he claimed, fuelled high demand for hospital beds, medical equipment, and drugs last year.

Chou Yin Sim, secretary of state at the Ministry of Health and permanent vice president of Inter-Ministerial Committee to Fight against Counterfeit Drugs and Illegal Health Care Services, said that of the 150 registered pharmaceutical companies in Cambodia only 50 imported drugs.

He claimed just 0.3 percent of drugs on sale were counterfeit, stating such drugs were smuggled into Cambodia.

Pharmaceutical companies could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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