Illicit medical drugs worth RM7 million seized in operation


Dr Jamilah (right) talks to reporters as Benodict looks on.

KUCHING: Sarawak pharmacy enforcement unit successfully intercepted illicit medical drugs worth RM7 million during an operation carried out at Senari Port here recently.

According to the unit’s branch chief Benodict Apok Talin, the medical drugs confiscated were those not registered with the relevant authorities and believed to contain harmful substances or ‘steroid’.

Benodict said the drugs were traditional medical drugs from China with strong demand in the local market but were actually manufactured in an illegal facility in Penang.

“The drugs manufactured at the factory were meant for the local market with some  bound for Indonesia,” he told reporters after the launching ceremony of Sarawak Pharmacy Conference 2019 at UCSI University Sarawak Campus, Jalan Keruing here yesterday.

The unit managed to intercept the shipment at Senari Port after intelligence gathering with the information gathered shared with the their counterparts in Penang.

Benodict shared that illicit drugs were not only sold through physical stores but also via online shopping platforms.

“The prices charged for these illicit drugs were not cheap either as they claimed their traditional medical drugs could ‘cure’ various illnesses among the elderly,” he said but stressed that it was fortunate the drugs did not manage to penetrate the local market.

The equipment and machinery at the factory in Penang have been confiscated. It was the second incident the said factory had been caught for producing illegal products.

Meanwhile, state health director Dr Jamilah Hashim urged members of the public to be wary when purchasing unregistered cosmetic products such as skin whitening or slimming products from China.

“For example, customers who travelled to China to purchase skin whitening products in bulk will have their items confiscated by Customs department upon arrival at Kuching International Airport and such products will be referred to state Health Department,” she said.

She warned that such products might contain acids that whiten skin but result in the user’s skin becoming thinner.

“Once the skin becomes thinner, the user might contract skin diseases like skin cancer in the end, especially in tropical countries like Malaysia where the ultraviolet radiation is very strong.”

Moreover, now with medical products selling via both physical and online platforms, Dr Jamilah appealed to the general public to always check whether the products purchased are registered with Malaysia Health Ministry.

“Drugs that are not registered by the Malaysia Health Ministry might be due to insufficient clinical tests to determine the effect on the usage of the drugs,” she said.

“Also, although drugs that are mixed with harmful substances or known as ‘steroid’ will provide short-term relief, it could pose dangerous side effects to the patient’s health in the long run.”

Dr Jamilah also reminded that each passenger is only allowed to bring back one month’s supply of medical drugs for specific treatments when they are abroad.