|The manufacturing and sales of sub-standard medicines on the official and the illegal markets have dire effects on the health of individual consumers as well as on the population as a whole.|
The conference held at the French Cultural Centre in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on April 6 2011, addressed once again this topic. The speakers presented an overview of the traffic in falsified antimalarial drugs. Drugs against malaria are indeed the most falsified medicines relative to the total number of marketed medicines.
The questions discussed during the meeting addressed the universal right to health, the effectiveness of prescriptions and that of the drugs themselves. According to WHO, 200,000 people could be saved each year if they consumed correctly prescribed, high quality antimalarial drugs. The speakers explained that the falsified drugs contain a non-standard dose of active molecules, and sometimes, no active ingredients at all. Some could even contain toxic substances.
Growing concern surrounds antimalarial drugs, this traffic’s preferred commodity. The predominantly rural population of the Mekong Basin lacks adequate information and therefore has become the designated “prey” of traffickers…. The Mahidol University in Thailand, will soon publish a study on the quality of drugs sold in pharmacies in the countries of the Mekong basin; it shows that roughly 12% of antimalarial drugs sold in pharmacies in the region are sub-standard.
International organizations are concerned about the consequences of such large-scale consumption that could over time weaken the effects of proper treatment. The WHO, in a 2008 report, was alarmed by the emergence of artemisinin resistance at the border of Thailand and Cambodia; it is the active substance in the latest anti-malarial drugs (called ACT – artemisinin-based combination therapy). It would appear that this outbreak of resistance extends to the borders of Burma and Thailand. Experts are already worried that it will spread to Africa.
It is urgent for the international community to work together. The conference reminded the public that the highest authorities need to be made aware of the situation and it applauded the willingness and determination of the Cambodian government on this issue.
The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European has selected the Mekong Basin to establish its Priority Solidarity Fund, supporting the national authorities of Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam in their fight against counterfeiting that threatens human health.
Cambodia signed the Cotonou Declaration against falsified drugs on February 9 2011, a week before inaugurating the Central Office for the Fight against Trafficking in Counterfeit Goods, which brings together civil and military police, customs officers, and health inspectors in Phnom Penh. This multidisciplinary organization was much needed to effectively combat falsified medicines and was advocated by the Cotonou Declaration and the Fondation Chirac.
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Read the article on the conference at the French Cultural Center in Phnom Penh (translation coming soon)