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Inquiry into sale of gov't ARVs could take ‘months’

A Cambodian doctor offers antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) to a woman who is living with HIV at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship hospital in Phnom Penh in 2012. AFP
A Cambodian doctor offers antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) to a woman who is living with HIV at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship hospital in Phnom Penh in 2012. AFP

Inquiry into sale of gov't ARVs could take ‘months’

A health official has said it will take months to verify where pharmacies and private clinics obtained antiretrovirals (ARVs) after it was discovered that the free government-distributed HIV medication was being sold, a response time that NGOs yesterday said was too slow.

Dr Ly Penh Sun, director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and STDs, said it will take “a couple of months” to complete the verification and inventory of the drugs at the Central Medical Stores (CMS), because of the amount of documentation involved.

Officials will review all invoices of medication delivered to the provinces from 2015 and this year in order “to make sure that all the drugs that were sent to the provinces actually went to the provinces”, he said.

The Ministry of Health, in a June 13 letter, banned the selling and buying of the medication. CMS imports the drugs, which are free for patients, then distributes to the provinces.

Preap Kol, executive director of Transparency International Cambodia, said government agencies could mobilise enough staff to conduct the investigation “within weeks rather than months”.

“I believe the issue needs to be addressed now and not be delayed too long, which could risk the problem becoming worse,” he said.

Choub Sok Chamreun, executive director for the HIV NGO KHANA, said quicker action would help understand the root cause of the problem.

“The revisit[ing] of record-keeping systems and or supplies and stock management will have to be scrutinized and verified,” he said in an email.

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