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Artists Exhibit Artworks to Raise Awareness of Counterfeit Medicine

Counterfeit pharmaceuticals are widespread in southeast Asia, with many sold cheaply on the streets or in rural markets.

Artists from five southeast Asian nations displayed their artworks at an exhibition in Cambodia's capital city on Thursday, to raise the awareness of counterfeit medicine.

More than 40 pieces of artworks from 34 artists were shown at the French Institute and the German cultural centre Meta House in Phnom Penh.

Counterfeit pharmaceuticals are widespread in southeast Asia, with many sold cheaply on the streets or in rural markets.

Though Viagra is one of the most common knock-offs, it's much less worrisome than fake pills to fight malaria, tuberculosis and even HIV.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), they often contain little or no active ingredient, which result in further sickness, fatalities and a host of drug-resistant viruses.

Hoping their art pieces will be able to paint a better picture for the general public, Cambodian artists want to make a difference.

"I hope that my painting will spread the message to help all Cambodians to understand about the risks of using the counterfeit medicines in Cambodia," said Oeur Sokuntevy.

In a WHO study, trafficking of counterfeit medicine is estimated at over 62 billion dollars per year.

The report also stated that when prices of medicines are high and price difference between fake goods exist, there is greater incentive to supply cheap counterfeit medicines.

So people engage in the trade of counterfeit medicine because the cost price is minimal while profits are significant.

"Poor Cambodians do not know, they do not have money to have treatment at the good hospital so they always go to buy medicine at the pharmacies where they do not know what is faked or good medicines. So this sort of exhibition can help them to know more about what is counterfeit medicines, and so they can be more careful when they buy medicines at the pharmacies. They know what they need to check to judge whether it is faked or good medicines that it can cure them," said Mam Borivann, the project manager for the malaria office.

The brain behind this exhibition is Mark Hammond, a documentary filmmaker.

He explained how he gathered the artists for this exhibition.

"Three years ago, I was a filmmaker of a TV spot about the problems of counterfeit medicine in southeast Asia. And I had the idea, well, I have the perspective on this. But what to people in Thailand, what to people in Cambodia, what to people in Laos think about the problem - counterfeit medicine. So I went out to a number of artists and asked them the same question. And asked them if they would do some work, in this case paintings, about the problem of counterfeit medicine," Hammond explained.

As a travelling exhibition, the art pieces will be shown in each of the represented countries in Southeast Asia, as well as travelling to France.