Minister of National Defence Tea Banh acknowledged at the 14th Asean Health Ministers Meeting in Siem Reap on Thursday that “fake and poor quality” drugs were a major problem in the region.
Banh, who stood-in for Prime Minister Hun Sen, called on the Asean bloc to cooperate in the battle against fake medicine, which he said was “worryingly spreading across the region”.
He told ministers that substandard medicine had stymied growth in the Kingdom’s economy and “seriously affected lives and endangered public health and social safety”.
“Fake and poor quality medicine is worryingly spreading across the region and the globe, especially drugs advertised online without identifying a clear source and proper registration,” Banh said.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) reported in 2017 that one in 10 medicinal products in medium and low-income countries were “substandard or falsified”.
“This means that people are taking medicines that fail to treat or prevent disease. Not only is this a waste of money for individuals and health systems that purchase these products, but substandard or falsified medical products can cause serious illness or even death,” the WHO report said.
“We need to help people become more aware of the growing market in counterfeit medicines and the public health risks associated with this illegal practice,” said Dr Howard Zucker, assistant director-general for the Health Technology and Pharmaceuticals department at WHO.
About 53 per cent of fake drugs are artesunates – used to treat malaria – a growing problem in Southeast Asia.
Still, only about two per cent of reports regarding fake drugs come from the WHO Southeast Asia Region – highlighting the need for increased monitoring.
Banh urged Asean countries to cooperate with the WHO to implement existing regional and global standards, including new mechanisms and guidelines to harmonise the region’s health sector. He requested the WHO to increase support to prevent substandard drugs from being used.
Health ministers from China, Japan and Korea also attended the meeting.
The Asean health ministers’ meeting rotates among the 10 member states. The meeting is held every two years with Cambodia serving as host this year.
They will continue to review and approve regulation to address various solutions to regional health issues which affect billions of people.