Thursday, November 27, 2008

Fake Drugs a Persistent Danger to the Chronically Ill


Fake medicines that continue to be sold in Cambodia pose a potentially deadly threat to those suffering from chronic illnesses including malaria, tuberculoses and HIV/ AIDS. This is according to Sar Kheng, Deputy Prime Minster and Minister of Interior, speaking during a seminar on Counterfeit of Pharmaceutical Products.

During the three day seminar from November 17-19 in Phnom Penh, Sar Kheng said that fake medicines were circulating widely in cities and provinces throughout the country.

The Deputy Prime Minister said that the production and distribution of fake medicines threatened those who were already weakened by disease and constituted an attack of the most cowardly nature. He added that the production and distribution of fake medicines also had a detrimental effect on economic growth and carefully formulated social budgeting strategies. This gives the problem a national and regional scope and adds urgency to the fight.

“I note that there are more counterfeit medicines being hawked in Cambodia because these noxious products are mostly imported from free markets abroad. The problem is further compounded by the fact that our competent authorities lack medical materials to test all these imported medicines before clearing them for sale in the local markets,” he said.

He pointed out that in order to crack down on the circulation of the fake medicines and prevent further imports of theses materials, Cambodian authorities will cooperate as closely as possible with Interpol, the global policing organization, as well as with medical authorities from neighboring countries in the fight against fake medicines.

He said that the Cambodian government will implement stringent controls and take effective action to control the circulation of medicines. This will include the testing of all medicines imported from abroad and the punishment of those who sell fake medicines to patients in Cambodia.

He also said that the government will provide further training for health authority workers and involved officials in the latest developments in pharmacological control measures so that they can prevent these substances entering the country.

Chou Yinsim, Secretary of Sate at the Ministry of Health, said that according to an investigation which was recently conducted by Ministry of Health in 2008, a total of 26 counterfeit product lines had been detected for sale in private pharmacy shops in 9 cities and provinces throughout Cambodia.

He too recognized that the availability of these products posed a further threat to patients already fighting hard to combat the effects of debilitating disease. With proper medication, the battle against diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS was likely to be long but successful. Without them, he said, the prognosis was much less favorable.

He pointed out that since 2001, health officials had identified 90 counterfeit treatments offered for sale in Cambodia, including antiretroviral drugs for HIV patients and a range of worse than useless antibiotics. These items may come at an attractive price but can be partially or totally ineffective. Much better, he said, that the patient sources their medications from one of the seven licensed pharmaceutical factories that produce a total of 900 medications, or buy from one of the 148 importers currently licensed to import more than 7,000 kinds of medicines.

2008 has seen different types of counterfeit medications for sale in cities and provinces including Phnom Penh, Shihanoukville and Battambang province, according to Yinsim.

Aline Plancon, Interpol Officer, said that under Operation Storm, which ran from April 15 to Sept. 15, 2008, police made 27 arrests and seized more than 16 million pills valued at $6.55 million, including fake antibiotics for pneumonia and child-related illnesses.

Plancon said that the counterfeit medicines were seized in Cambodia, China, Burma, Laos, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and Singapore. He added that about 40 percent of 1,047 counterfeit drug-related arrests worldwide last year were made in Asia.

According to a World Health Organization report of 2008, at least 200,000 people are killed every year in Asia, due to the use of counterfeit medicines. The report said global sales of fake drugs may reach $75 billion by 2010, an increase of more than 90 percent from 2005. It said that the counterfeits account for as much as 30 percent of all drugs consumed in developing nations and less than 1 percent of all drugs taken by the sick in developed nations such as the U.S.

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