Areport funded by the World Health Organization (WHO) claims that government
inactivity has allowed counterfeit and substandard drugs to flourish in
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
"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
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.
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
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.
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
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.