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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Counterfeit drugs trade still flourishing

Counterfeit drugs trade still flourishing

Areport funded by the World Health Organization (WHO) claims that government

inactivity has allowed counterfeit and substandard drugs to flourish in

Cambodia.

The draft Study Report on Counterfeit and Substandard Drugs,

dated January 2002, found that 10 percent of pharmaceuticals on sale were fake

while another 3 percent were substandard.

"The lack of political will as

well as corruption among authorities delay the resolution of this dangerous

problem," the report's authors concluded. Among the main causes of

"pharmaceutical anarchy" were a weak awareness campaign, widespread poverty,

insufficient inspectors and low budgets.

Chroeng Sokhan is vice-director

at the Department of Drugs and Food, and was on the interministerial committee

that wrote the report. He said the drugs were endangering the lives and robbing

the pockets of thousands of people, with the impact worst in rural

communities.

"Whether or not you think 13 percent is a lot, the main

problem is that most of the poor people have access only to the bad drugs. Their

risks are very high," he said "We are sure that these kill many people, but we

don't have figures for that because there is no system for recording

information."

A fellow committee member and honorary president of the

Pharmacist's Association, Yin Yann, said widespread corruption and a lack of

political will had stymied efforts to tackle counterfeit drugs.

"If the

government had the desire to do something about it then it would be successful,"

said Yann. Both men hoped the report would force the government to adopt

stricter measures to tackle the problem.

Sokhan said a crack down on

illegal pharmaceutical outlets was essential.

"You cannot combat

counterfeit drugs as long as there are illegal outlets," he said. "We have to

improve both the technical quality of licensed sites and combat all illegal

ones."

A survey dated October 2000 found there were 892 licensed

pharmacies in Cambodia and more than three times as many unlicensed ones. Sokhan

said it was also essential to improve public awareness on the issue, although

the Ministry of Health (MoH) had only a limited budget to do so.

The

report also blamed a lack of collaboration between agencies for the failure of

recent efforts to combat the problem.

"The MoH cannot do it alone," said

Sokhan. "This is a very big impact problem and we need attention from the

government."

The report defined counterfeit drugs as: listing the wrong

active ingredients, listing the wrong amounts of active ingredient, false

packaging and drugs repackaged by an unauthorized person.

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