Cambodia: PM calls for enforcement of promotion ban as companies infiltrate healthcare system

Soon after IBFAN-ICDC blew the whistle on Bibere/Nutrilatt for giving out samples in public, the Cambodia Daily revealed that companies are using the healthcare system and health professionals to push their products onto new mothers.

Clinics and hospitals are inundated with samples from companies through routine promotional visits of sales reps. Health professionals felt they could not follow the law on the ban of promotion if they are to serve their customers’ demands. “Customers” would complain of poor service if no formula is offered to them for free, and companies would reward health professionals for giving out high number of samples with gifts. The Managing Director of Nutrilatt, Tim Sovannara, denied promotional activities in hospitals, and claimed such activities are the same as “giving a gift to a friend’’.

Despite the implementation of Sub-Decree on Marketing of Products for Infants and Young Child Feeding (Sub-Decree 133) which bans all promotions of infant and young child feeding products without prior authorisation from the Ministry of Health, companies flagrantly infiltrate the healthcare system and health workers are deeply entrenched as accomplices to unlawful company promotion. Without prior permission, such practices are not only unlawful Code violations, they also severely compromise the code of ethics and fiduciary duty of health professionals to protect the health of infants and young children.

In the face of a clear lack of enforcement of the Sub-Decree, and the nation’s falling breastfeeding rates, Prime Minister Hun Sen has called for stronger enforcement of Sub Decree 133 and the promotion of products for infant and young child feeding on the National Nutrition Day. “There are a number of factors that may have contributed to this: lack of knowledge, lack of family support, migrating for employment, short maternity leave, and an increase in advertisements for formula milk as a replacement for breast milk, which cause confusion among the people,” he said in the statement.  Link