The number of illegal pharmacies nationwide had plummeted by 92 percent in the last year following a concerted government crackdown, while there were 71 percent fewer unlicensed clinics, the Ministry of Health said yesterday.
Speaking at an annual Inter-Ministerial Committee meeting in Phnom Penh yesterday, Heng Taykry, secretary of state at the ministry, said the number of illegal pharmacies throughout the Kingdom has decreased from 1,420 last year, to 111 currently. The number of illegal health clinics dropped from 1,055 to 305 over the same period, he said.
“Although we are still faced with the problems of counterfeit drugs, illegal pharmacies and illegal clinics, we are happy to see the decline,” he said.
“These statistics are the result of health officers’ diligent efforts to combat counterfeit drugs, illegal pharmacies and illegal clinics.”
Heng Taykry said the crackdown had been a success, but warned that these types of illegal establishments were still prevalent throughout most developing countries, and that Cambodia was no exception.
He said the use of fake or low-quality medication, and the presence of unlicensed health clinics, resulted in numerous deaths each year.
Heng Bun Keat, director of the Ministry of Health’s Department of Drugs and Food, said the closure of illegal pharmacies and clinics would help to eliminate counterfeit drugs.
“Counterfeit medication trafficking is rampant in pharmacies and clinics that do not have licenses from the Health Ministry,” he said.
Pieter van Maaren, country representative for the World Health Organisation, said drug sales need to be limited to licensed pharmacies. This way, “you can be sure that those who sell the drugs are actually licensed and have the knowledge to inform the public,” he said.
Heng Taykry listed several other factors that are keeping counterfeit drugs on the market, including a lack of information among rural and poor communities where awareness campaigns are slow to reach.
A lack of cooperation between the relevant institutions, authorities and NGOs contributes to the problem, he said, as does leniency toward offenders from law enforcement officials.
“In order to more effectively crackdown on counterfeit drugs, illegal pharmacies and clinics, the Ministry of Health will spread public service announcements to directly and indirectly educate the people about the consequences of using fake medicines,” Heng Taykry said.
He said the campaign would be in the form of television commercials and posters, which will be hung in all pharmacies and other public places.
According to an October study conducted by the Ministry of Health, nearly 3 percent of pharmaceuticals from licensed outlets were counterfeit, with a higher portion failing quality tests.
But Van Maaren expressed optimism regarding yesterday’s announcement.
“We are very keen on the Ministry of Health to continue these efforts,” he said. “I think it is important that the general public has access to quality drugs.”