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Despite New Law, Fake Drugs, Illegal Stores Remain

Despite an amendment to the drug control law, Cambodia still has a high number of unauthorized pharmacies that sell illegal, fake and potentially dangerous drugs, officials said.

Health authorities from 24 cities and provinces across the country met in Phnom Penh Saturday to discuss the use of illegal drugs sold at illegal pharmacies around the country. The amendment has been in use since November, adding additional punishments for the sale of illegal or fake drugs.

Pren Noron, deputy chief of the Ministry of Health's Department of Food and Drugs, said the sale of illegal drugs was hard to curb, and, despite the ministry's hard work, complaints continue.

Between 20 percent and 30 percent of drugs on the market are not officially labeled by the Ministry of Health and could be dangerous, he said.

Most people only worried about the price of drugs, he said, making them susceptible to fakes.

"The use of illegal or false medicines causes a lot of danger. First, [people] waste money buying drugs of no quality that cannot cure their diseases, and can also cause health hazards if the drugs contain some dangerous substances that do not respond to the patient's illness," Pren Noron said. "For example, antibiotics, if we do not have enough doses of them, they can cause immunity in the bodies of the patients."

There are twice as many unauthorized pharmacies in Cambodia—about 2,000—as authorized, health officials said.

Phnom Penh has a better ratio, with about 486 legal pharmacies and 113 illegal.

"At the same time, some urban and provincial health departments do not pay attention and are irresponsible for private services, overlooking and ignoring reports of the ministry and failing to study the law," said Oeung Phirun, secretary of state for the Ministry of Health.

Health officials pointed to Kampong Cham province as a good model for the elimination of illegal drugstores; it managed to oust all non-licensed pharmacies in the provincial seat, despite a lack of funding from the central government.