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October 25, 2023

Healthcare in Cambodia: Crackdown on Illegal Advertising and Noncompliant Services

Cambodia’s Ministry of Health (MOH) continues to increase awareness among the public and private sector of the need for strict healthcare regulations and strict enforcement to advance the quality of the country’s healthcare sector.

In April 2023, the MOH issued a notification letter reminding advertisers of health products that they need to obtain a permit before advertising their products in Cambodia.

On October 12, 2023, the MOH issued two press releases on continued noncompliance in the healthcare sector. The two press releases address the illegal advertising of both healthcare products and private healthcare services. The releases also address unlicensed healthcare professionals and general noncompliance by private healthcare services.

These releases indicate that the MOH, in cooperation with local authorities, will substantially increase its enforcement efforts across Cambodia. Since October 12, several private healthcare clinics have had their operations closed and licenses suspended or revoked, signaling the ministry’s intent to enforce the legal framework.

Noncompliant Advertising of Health Products

The first press release focuses on the continued illegal advertising of health products and the advertising of unregistered health products. Health products include modern medicines, traditional medicines, health supplements, medical devices, cosmetics, and other products that prevent or treat diseases.

The release highlights that the MOH has noticed ongoing unauthorized and illegal advertising, commenting that these are often found online and on social media. The noncompliant advertising referenced in the release includes advertising of health products without the required advertising permit, advertising products that are not properly registered with the MOH, and advertising by unlicensed companies and individuals.

The MOH also states in the release that some advertisements are using inappropriate and noncompliant content that is not based on medical science and exaggerates the qualities of the health products—specifically mentioning skin-whitening cosmetics.

The ministry’s press release also informs the public of the dangers of noncompliant products and advertising, asking them to avoid purchasing these products. It reminds consumers to look for the MOH product registration or notification number, which registered products bear on their label. Further, it emphasizes that businesses and individuals advertising and trading health products must abide by the law.

Illegal Advertising of Healthcare Services and Noncompliant Healthcare Services

The second press release addresses noncompliant advertising of private healthcare services.

Private healthcare services include private hospitals, polyclinics, health clinics, dental clinics, and any other type of private healthcare service that requires a license from the MOH in order to operate legally.

The press release addresses illegal advertisements, such as those with content that is not approved by the MOH and the relevant professional council, or with content that is not supported in medical science, which is prohibited by each Code of Ethics that applies to professionals in the healthcare sector in Cambodia.

The second press release further addresses prohibited advertising of services by healthcare professionals who are not licensed by the MOH, do not meet the MOH’s education requirements, or are not registered with the relevant professional council.

The MOH also warns the public of the dangers of such noncompliant healthcare services and professionals and reminds the healthcare sector that it has a duty to comply with all laws and regulations.

The press release instructs local and provincial authorities to inspect all private healthcare services that fall under their purview and to act against services and professionals that do not comply with the law. It also instructs all professional councils to implement the laws and the relevant Code of Ethics, followed by instructions to strengthen their management of the healthcare professionals that fall under each council’s scope.

Concluding Remarks

The MOH’s two press releases are a reminder and warning to those active in the private healthcare sector, and to purchasers of healthcare products and services. The releases do not set out a new framework; they merely urge the healthcare sector to implement and follow the rules that have been in place for many years.

Strict enforcement of the existing legal framework will create a level playing field for businesses in the private healthcare sector and will eventually lead to better healthcare for the Cambodian people. Enforcement across the board is therefore warmly welcomed by the private sector.

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