A BATCH of medicine just days away from its expiry date was given to a Phnom
Penh health clinic by an Asian NGO in what authorities say could be a
The chief of the Municipal Health Service Pharmacy Office, Yim
Yann, told the Post he wanted to complain about the incident to the Prime
About 400 packs of antibiotics were given to the Teuk Thla
Health Care Center in Phnom Penh in early February by a Singaporean-based NGO
called New Life Foundation.
The clinic was told they were receiving the
medicine in early February but discovered that the expiry date of the medicine
The clinic sent the medicine on to the pharmacy office - who
did not know about the arrangement - and it was immediately destroyed by
Though gifted, the clinic was told when they received the
medicine that it was worth $5,000.
Yin Yann said that some medicines -
especially medicines so close to their expiry dates - could be obtained by NGOs
either free, or at a greatly reduced price.
"If they buy the medicine
cheaply and give it away, they can report to their budget donors that they
bought the medicine at the same price as newly produced medicine, which is so
much more expensive," Yann said.
Yann also explained how dangerous
expired medicine was for users.
The Post tried contacting the New Life
Foundation by telephone and personally but could get no answers.
was first told that "the chief" was in a meeting. After waiting outside the NGO
house - which had no signs - two staff members came out and began
"Why are you here?" asked one. Another said his boss had gone
out and had no phone.
When the Post described the incident of the expired
medicine and asked for comment, the first man said: "Why do you have to question
about this and why do you have to write the story?"
The man said: "I
don't know about that and who told you?" When shown Yann's card, he said "do not
believe what people say so much."
The Post said that it had witnessed the
expiry dates on the medicine packs, but still the men would not
One of the men whispered to the Post during the interview - which
became argumentative - that his companion was a doctor.
Yann said: "I
have suspected for a long time that NGOs are providing us with what we really
"It unbelievable that they give us medicines that can only
be used within one month," he said
He said he was surprised when he saw
the report that says the medicine cost $5,000.
Yann said he just realized
the medicine was bad when center officials returned it to him.
that an official working at the Teuk Thla Health Center told him they were
afraid to use the old medicine, so they returned it.
Yann said a
Ministry of Health cooperation committee - of which he was a member - had been
set up to coordinate with NGOs about what health centers need but it was
In some cases NGOs did not report to the Ministry of Health
what their projects were, he said.
They did everything without
consultation then reported the amount of money they had spent, he
"The other problem is that the aid is not what we are needing... it
is not in the right target," he said.
"If they want to help us faithfully
they should ask us what we need," he said.
"There will probably be the
same thing in other institutions."
"Aid can be valuable if only donors
cooperate with recipients and ask what they really want."
pre-UNTAC time, some NGOs - Yann cited two as Renaissance de Cambodge and
Pharmaciens Sans Frontier - also gave medicines that were almost at their
He said in developed countries living standards were high, so
when they became ill they were able to afford newly produced medicines from
their doctors. Medicines that were almost expired were
Cambodia needed immediate help, he said. NGOs provided older
medicines that should be used very quickly.
In this case, however, there
was too much medicine to use, and no time to use it before it expired, but it
was given nonetheless.