Cambodia: Five tons of counterfeit drugs go up in smoke!

Saturday, 29 November, 2014

The Cambodian government incinerated 5 tons of fake drugs in Dangkao district, on the outskirts of the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh on Friday, 28 November. This consisted of 62 types of counterfeit medicines. The magnitude of the problem of counterfeit medicines in southeast Asia is well illustrated by this event. “Tons of counterfeit medications have been seized at customs checkpoints, border crossings, as well as pharmacies and drugstores since 2012, thanks to joint operations conducted by Cambodian health authorities and Economic Police authorities,” said the deputy chief of the Interior Ministry's economic police department, Brig. Gen. Long Sreng.
Read the story in the Cambodian Daily and

Cambodia and Vietnam have been working together to combat the counterfeit drug trade. Cambodia's National Authority for Combating Drugs and the Cambodian Economic Police tackle counterfeit medications. Fake medicines have been publically destroyed by Cambodia previously.

In the anti-infective medicines area Cambodia has been focussing on improving detection of poor-quality medicines through Medicines Quality Monitoring, strengthening medicines quality assurance/quality control systems, improving access to medicines quality information, and raising awareness about medicines quality issues among regulators, health care professionals, and the public (USAID Cambodia 2012).

Counterfeiting antimalarials was recently poposed as a crime against humanity in a paper by Kaliyaperumal Karunamoorthi (2014). The author stated "The counterfeiting of anti-malarials represents a form of attack on global public health in which fake and substandard anti-malarials serve as de facto weapons of mass destruction, particularly in resource-constrained endemic settings, where malaria causes nearly 660,000 preventable deaths and threatens millions of lives annually. It has been estimated that fake anti-malarials contribute to nearly 450,000 preventable deaths every year. This crime against humanity is often underestimated or ignored."

In October I wrote a column for Medical Observer about the issues doctors should highlight for patients who will travel overseas and may be tempted to acquire cheap medications (Speare 2014).


Karunamoorthi K. The counterfeit anti-malarial is a crime against humanity: a systematic review of the scientific evidence. Malaria Journal 2014:13:209.

Speare R. Drugs and the traveller. Travel Bug column. Medical Observer, 22 October 2014. Available at

USAID Cambodia. Fact sheet: Promoting the quality of medicines (PQM). 2012.

Image: A member of the Cambodian Economic Police views counterfeit drugs in 2010. Photo by: Kim Sovannara 10 August 2010

Posted by Rick Speare