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
"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
"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
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
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
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.
encouraged people to use low-cost ways to rehydrate, such as eating rice
porridge or simply drinking water.