New regulations to control the sale of medicines are being drafted by the Ministry
of Health along with strict rules for the setting up of pharmacies.
"The ministry is now working actively to deal with these problems," the
vice secretary of state, Dr Dy Narongrith, told the Post.
His department has also sought advice from overseas experts on how to revamp medical
He explained how, under the current system, anybody sufficiently qualified can set
up a pharmacy but the law does not state that they have to be on call and very often
their wives, relatives or children are left to recommend and sell medicines.
In 1985, a sub-decree on the sale of medicines was passed by the Council of Ministers
and six years later the Ministry of Health issued another declaration concerning
the setting up of pharmacies and sub-pharmacies.
According to the rules, a pharmacy must be run by a senior pharmacist, while A-type
and B-type pharmacies are respectively required to be managed by an intermediate
level pharmacist and a retired intermediate level physician.
To open a business, applicants must be Cambodian nationals aged at least 25 with
a recognized qualification and three years work experience in Phnom Penh, two years
in the provinces or one year in the south-eastern or mountainous regions.
There are 153 pharmacies and 85 A and B level sub-pharmacies in Phnom Penh together
with scores of authorized retailers.
A campaign is already underway, in cooperation with the city's health service and
local authorities, to monitor the drugs trade.
So far, the reaction of pharmacists has been mixed with a number continually refusing
to following regulations, according to the ministry.
The ministry is also trying to tackle the problems of illegally imported and counterfeit
drugs and to monitor drug advertising on television, radio and in the newspapers.
For Dr Narongrith, some advertising goes well beyond medical ethics.
"It's wrong that one says his drugs are excellent," he explained, citing
just one example.
Most authorized drugs come from Europe while many others come from Vietnam and Thailand
and many of these are counterfeit.
Among the ministry's plans is the setting up of a central drugs warehouse so they
can be labeled and properly checked before being sold to pharmacists.
The responsibility for confiscating counterfeit drugs lies not with the ministry
but with the police. So far, no agreement on future cooperation has been reached.