Burma’s Ministry of Health issued a consumer warning to only buy drugs certified by government health authorities as cross-border contraband drugs continue to infiltrate the Burmese market.
“We would like to urge consumers to only use drugs registered with us, which have been tested for safety, as there are contraband products unofficially imported and distributed in markets across the country,” said Dr Myint Han, director of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under the Ministry of Health.
Myint Han said health officials also plan to conduct education campaigns to raise public awareness on the dangers of consuming unapproved drugs and food products. A ministry announcement informed consumers that approved drugs can be identified by FDA registration numbers on the packages.
Officials said drugs were being smuggled into Burma through border checkpoints with neighbouring countries as well as from further abroad, carried by hand via airplane.
Dr Khin Maung Lwin, a retired official of the Health Education Department, said that in many cases patients in Burma buy drugs without prescription or professional referral.
“As long as stores can get away with selling uncertified drugs, without qualified pharmacists to apply regulations, people — amid financial hardships — will continue to buy contraband drugs because they are cheaper,” said Dr Khin Maung Lwin.
Purchasing drugs from roadside stalls and vendors without seeking advice from a doctor has been common practice for decades in Burma, where the federal health system lacks resources and is inaccessible to many of the nation’s poor.
Weak oversight and regulation, Dr Khin Maung Lwin said, continues to enable the circulation of contraband drugs.
“It might be a while until these issues are resolved,” he said.