Illegal medicine is a scourge in Cambodia. A new report by SMCS Risk reveals alarming volumes of expired, unregistered and counterfeit medicine is turning up in pharmacies and warehouse stores across the country, and the offenders are largely going unpunished.
“The seizure volumes reported in our special report are quite shocking. The team at SMCS Risk has identified a wide range of health businesses, distributors and importers involved in the trade of illegal medicine in Cambodia. Government partners have been diligent in acting quickly on our information, culminating in over 500 raids in the past three years.” said SMCS Risk CEO Steve Morrish, on the release of the report.
The risks posed to consumers in Cambodia from illegal medicine are significant. Fake medicine has been discovered that is intended for vulnerable users, including children, or in emergency situations, such as severe bouts of asthma or epilepsy, or even heart attacks. Expired medicine for the treatment of malaria or infections was also common.
The trade in illegal medicine is enticing unqualified pharmacists, manufacturers and businesses into the health sector. Mr Morrish elaborates: “The offenders that are being apprehended are often unqualified. Unmarked tablets are being smuggled into the country before being repackaged by criminals. Medicine is stored in very high temperature and humidity, or even alongside livestock pens. In the worst cases, intravenous needles are being administered, re-used and disposed of in open pits by people with no qualifications.”
“Modest financial opportunities are creating these extremely risky conditions. HIV outbreaks and deaths from injections have been reported recently here in Cambodia. The use of sub-standard medicine, in non-sterile conditions, by unqualified persons is undoubtedly creating major issues for the country. Its important to note that autopsies and toxicology tests are not routine, and the health issue may be much larger.”
This report is likely to be the tip of the iceberg. Despite efforts to crack down on the trade in illegal medicine, authorities in Cambodia face a significant challenge.
“It’s a global issue that concerns organized crime. We’ve identified and seized products originating from 28 countries, including medicine from most of the major pharmaceutical companies,” said Mr Morrish. “The industry has a real problem: major steps have to be taken to secure the supply chain, particularly as pharmaceutical production increases in the region.”
The special report is now available online. Media enquiries and requests for interviews can be directed to:
CEO, SMCS Risk
Mobile: +855 17 609 300