CONTAINMENT

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Law Enforcers to Get Tough on Counterfeit Medicines

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Police officers in Siemreap at the nationwide training to crackdown on counterfeits. Pix by WHO/Sonny Krishnan

Cambodian malaria experts and senior police officers have agreed that better cooperation and concerted efforts are needed to effectively combat malaria as well as curb the sale and smuggling of counterfeit and substandard drugs in Cambodia.

“The Ministry of Health has done a lot of work, but it would not be able to do anything without the cooperation of the police,” explained General Ben Rath, Vice Commissioner for Phnom Penh Municipal Police, during a workshop on “Strengthening Law Enforcement for Investigation of Counterfeit Medicines and Artemisinin Monotherapy”, which was held in Siemreap Province from November 10 to 12, 2010.

The National Centre for Parasitology, Entomology and Malaria Control or CNM that receives technical assistance from WHO, with support from the Global Fund and in cooperation with the Ministry of Interior organized the three-day training of trainers’ workshop for 55 senior police officers from 24 cities and provinces across the country. The workshop was to improve the investigative skills of the Cambodian senior police officers to identify and crackdown on fake and substandard malaria drugs that have been smuggled and sold in the country.

Malaria affects poor people. If we can help them avoid getting sick, it’s like helping them alleviate poverty

Besides the cooperation between CNM and the police, General Ben said it was important for the Ministry of Health to encourage local authorities to provide more support to the crackdown on counterfeit and substandard drugs in Cambodia, particularly in the rural areas.

“We’ve done a lot in Phnom Penh, but not much in the provinces where people are more vulnerable due to the lack of knowledge,” he said.

Dr. Doung Socheat, Director of CNM, addressing the workshop

Malaria parasites in the ASEAN region are now resistant to almost all anti-malarial drugs, with the exception of drug combinations containing derivatives of artemisinin (artemisinin-based combination therapy, or ACT). Because artemisinin derivatives are remarkably rapid in their anti-malarial effects, they are much sought after. But as they are relatively expensive a demand is created for cheaper versions amongst the poorest and most vulnerable people, upon whom the counterfeiters have preyed — with fatal results.

General Un Sovannthy, Deputy Chief of the Anti-Economic Crime Police Department, said he agreed that the cooperation between different institutions was significant.

“We have had success due to the cooperation from local authorities and the courts,” he said, “The economic police officers are to supplement the work of other institutions.”

He said that the combat against counterfeit and substandard drugs would be even more effective if the village leaders could also be trained to identify and distinguish between good drugs from bad ones.

The Phnom Penh Police Vice-Commissioner said the workshop had provided the participants with substantial knowledge and skills so that they could do their work more efficiently.

General Ben Rath, Vice Commissioner for Phnom Penh Municipal Police, showing his support for the ban on monotherapies. Pix by WHO/Sonny Krishnan

“Even myself, I have learned a lot from the workshop,” said General Ben, adding: “I think they will be able to pass on their knowledge [to other police officers in the districts].”

Meanwhile, the Cambodian government has made progress in its crackdown on counterfeit malaria drugs. In April 2010 the United States Pharmacopia — a non–governmental, official public standards-setting authority for prescription and over-the-counter medicines – stated that Cambodia has shut down nearly 65 percent of illegal pharmacies after receiving evidence showing that they were among the main sources of substandard and counterfeit medicines in the country.

Meanwhile, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed on September 26, 2010, between the Anti-Economic Crime Police Department and CNM to implement the Affordable Medicines Facility – Malaria (AMFm) Project with a two-year funding from the Global Fund.

Lieutenant Colonel Suon Nara, Coordinator for the AMFm Project and Head of the Anti-Economic Crime Police Department’s Value, Quantity and Quality Protection Office, said the national workshop had six main objectives:

  • Fifty-five senior police officers will be trained to become trainers themselves so that they can conduct further trainings for other police officers in their respective cities and provinces;
  • A detailed plan of cooperation will be created with tasks designated according to levels of tasks and responsibilities;
  • The tasks and responsibilities at each level will be revised in order to improve the implementation of the project’s work plan based on the actual cooperation and activities;
  • The workshop will also review any challenges to the cooperation and report system at each level so that the implementation of the work can be improved;
  • Discuss the preparation for five other regional workshops to be organized in Preah Sihanouk, Kompong Chhnang, Battambang, Siemreap and Kratie provinces;
  • Discuss how to strengthen the implementation of laws and how to take action in investigations and the crackdown on counterfeit drugs, particularly counterfeit anti-malarials.

Dr. Duong Socheat, Director of the National Malaria Center, also agreed that different institutions needed to cooperate in the fight against counterfeit drugs and malaria.

“As you know, there are counterfeit medicines in Cambdodia,” he told the workshop. “Malaria can cause death but it is preventable.”

He continued: “When people are sick, they normally go to private pharmacies [and] they may get counterfeit medicines. [So], we need law enforcement officers to implement the laws effectively.”

Dr. Duong Socheat said getting rid of fake and substandard drugs is important in combating malaria in Cambodia.

“Malaria affects poor people,” he said, “If we can help them avoid getting sick, it’s like helping them alleviate poverty. If they are not sick, they can work and make money to help their families.”

Moeun Chhean Nariddh

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Written by malariacontainment

November 24, 2010 at 10:52 am

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