The record set by a two-tonne seizure of sub-standard pharmaceuticals last week has proved remarkably short-lived.
Ministry of Interior police forces yesterday morning confiscated nearly three tonnes of counterfeit and expired medicines at two warehouses in Phnom Penh’s Chamkarmon district, police said, making good on last week’s promise to crack down on the proliferation of bad drugs in Cambodia.
According to Long Sreng, deputy director of the ministry’s Anti-Economic Crime department, the raid on the warehouses was a joint operation between his unit, prosecutors and the Department of Health.
“[At the first warehouse], we seized 25 boxes with many kinds of drugs, which weighed more than one tonne; and at the second place, we seized more than 20 boxes of fake drugs, which weighed nearly one tonne,” he said. “We are keeping the fake and expired medicines at the Anti-Economic Crime Department of the Interior Ministry for further investigation.”
Sreng said that the bust came after officers received an anonymous tip to follow a businessman engaged in the transport of the drugs. After a two-night stakeout, he continued, police moved on the storage facility, but the suspect they had followed had already escaped.
Va Sakda, a deputy prosecutor with Phnom Penh Municipal Court who was involved in the raid, said yesterday that police investigations were ongoing, and recommended vigilance to anyone buying pharmaceuticals.
“All people should pay great attention before buying medicine in order to avoid buying fake medicines or expired medicine,” she said, noting that she would release an arrest warrant when the police investigation had concluded.
World Health Organizationcommunications officer Sonny Krishnan said the arrest was a promising sign.
“Well, that’s a start; that’s quite a huge amount,” he said, noting that the Anti-Economic Crime unit, as well as assisting police from France and Interpol, seemed to be making headway. “I think they’re really tapping into the flow of counterfeit and substandard medicines.”
However, he noted, keeping the medicines out of Cambodia in the first place will take some work.
“The forensic trail comes, basically, from neighbouring countries; we can’t single out one country,” he said, renewing previous calls for field testing kits at border stations. “That’s why the customs agencies at the border crossings should be strengthened.”