Online sales of pharmaceuticals and health-related disinfectants banned

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Many Facebook accounts are exploiting the opportunity to advertise the selling of medicines, medical equipment and disinfectants. Heng Chivoan

The Ministry of Health has banned online sales of medicines, medical equipment and other health-related disinfectant substances as most of such products are not legally authorised and not of proper quality.

The ban comes as the ministry purchased alcohol as well as disinfectant substances from online sellers for quality checks, and found most of them failed to meet technical standards or are fraudulent – with some being purely methanol or methanol mixed with ethanol.

In a press release on Tuesday, the ministry said as the world and Cambodia experienced a growing number of Covid-19 cases, people were desperately in need of medicines, medical equipment and disinfectants to prevent infection.

At the same time, the ministry observed that many Facebook accounts were exploiting the opportunity to advertise the selling of medicines, medical equipment and disinfectants.

These include masks, temperature measuring devices, alcohol, sanitising gel and other disinfectants that do not have a ministry registration number or label.

In accordance with the Law on the Management of Pharmaceuticals, the ministry said medicines, equipment, medical materials and operators must have a registration number from the ministry.

They are also required to be sold at pharmacies and legally-registered pharmaceutical resellers and not online.

“The sale of all kinds of cosmetics must have a registration number from the ministry.

“The advertisement of medicines, equipment, medical materials and operators, and all cosmetics must be approved by the ministry to ensure the advertisements are accurate and based on medical, pharmaceutical and dentistry documents,” the ministry said.

According to the ministry, alcohol that has the quality to disinfect viruses is 60-80 per cent ethanol. As for methanol, it is not used as a disinfectant because it does not kill viruses and can be life-threatening.

Meanwhile, the ministry also warned the public not to believe in two Facebook scams, namely Certified and Semprox Cambodia, which advertised and are selling disinfectant cabinets that claim to protect against vicious viruses, and virus-disinfectant battery containers.

The ministry considers the advertisement of the two items to be false as they claim to prevent and stop the coronavirus’ spread.

It asked the authorities to take strict legal action against the Certified and Semprox Cambodia Facebook account holders who spread the false information above to cheat the people.

However, a number of Facebook accounts have expressed dissatisfaction with the ministry’s ban.

Mom Varin posted on his/her Facebook page that even selling masks, disinfectant water and temperature measurement devices have been banned while some countries like the US and China can sell them on online platforms like Amazon and Alibaba.

It said: “Please check again, don’t let people say that we are the only one in the world. In this era, they may still want the people to ride bicycles and motorcycles to make a purchase from pharmacies.

“Banning the [online] sale of medicines is already the most accurate thing because it requires a prescription, and Covid-19 testing devices or blood tests . . . those you can ban.

“As for the sale of devices or equipment like masks, disinfectant water, temperature measuring devices . . . they’ve never been banned from being sold online.”

Dr Hen Phearak, a respiratory doctor with more than 20 years experience, said medicines, medical equipment and other substances related to the health sector require approval from the ministry.

They can only be found in pharmacies and legally-registered pharmaceutical resellers as such things can be harmful to health if not properly checked.

He said the ban should have been implemented long ago and that it is a bit late as a number of unauthorised online sellers have already distributed those products.

“Those sellers who posted claims that those products could prevent Covid-19 are opportunists, as they advertised that these alcohol spraying cabinets and laser cabinets can kill the Covid-19 virus.

“However, those who produced those cabinets have no understanding of the Covid-19 virus,” he said.

Phearak also said while most of the products posted and sold online were of poor quality, there is also a number that is well-recognised and of good quality, and this helps make things easier for the public.

“Online sellers need to know if their products have properly declared tax and have proper registration numbers.

“These products can also be purchased at state-owned enterprises or state-authorised enterprises, such as alcohol for instance. And keep the original receipt to confirm from where they were purchased,” he said.

He said this would make it easier for online sellers. “If you are not caught, you can make a profit, but if you are caught, you will end up facing criminal charges,” Phearak said.

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