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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - IV usage: overpriced and over the top

IV usage: overpriced and over the top

Poor patient education and improper medical practice are causing the misuse of

intravenous treatment, which doctors say is leading to health concerns, illegal

activity and overcharging.

Dr Sim Piseth, of Surya Medical Services in

Phnom Penh, said sick Cambodians believe they need IV treatment - used for

severe dehydration - regardless of their condition.

"When they're weak or

tired, or just have a headache, they think they need an IV. And most doctors

make good money charging them to have it," Piseth said.

He said an

average bottle costs $1 to $2 per liter, but many clinics charge up to ten times

that.

"Private clinics are especially guilty of using IV

inappropriately. But state hospitals also do it."

One health official,

speaking on condition of anonymity, said the problem was

"enormous".

"Patients don't think they're getting proper treatment unless

they get IV," he said. "If a doctor won't provide it, they just go to another

clinic or one of hundreds of illegal pharmacies."

Dr Gavin Scott, who has

practiced in Phnom Penh for 13 years, said misusing IV treatment poses a health

risk. "There are always risks when dealing with untrained medical people, but

over-hydration can overload the lungs and lead to heart failure. In the case of

IV injections, disease can be transmitted through non-sterile

needles."

Chroeng Sokhan, vice director of the Department of Drugs and

Food at the Ministry of Health, said IV treatment is so common that it's

practically a Cambodian tradition.

He said the department's program

against "irrational use of drugs" was aimed at raising awareness amongst the

public as well as government authorities, in order to strengthen laws and

regulations.

The plan is funded through the World Health Organization, as

government funding is drained by other departments, he said. It includes

television advertising and street posters and would be implemented as soon as

possible.

Dr Lim Thai Pheang, director of the National Center for Health

Promotion, said a solution would have "to change the behavior of the patients as

well as medical providers."

Unicef communications officer Mark Thomas,

however, said he did not consider the inappropriate use of IV drips as a major

health problem compared to other issues like child mortality.

He

encouraged people to use low-cost ways to rehydrate, such as eating rice

porridge or simply drinking water.

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