The increasing wanderlust of Hong Kong people is taking them to remoter parts of the world, a trend that is good for the travel industry but challenging to our doctors. With the souvenirs being brought back are diseases rarely found here or which were wiped out decades ago. Sometimes doctors are not familiar with the illness they are treating and mis-diagnose. But, more frequently, the drugs needed to treat the disease are not available due to the smallness of the local market. Whichever way, the loser is the patient - and sometimes, they lose their life. Last month, two people died of malaria, a disease which was eradicated here more than two decades ago. Infectious diseases experts say there are about 20 cases of malaria locally each year and a death occurs every two or three years. Each time a victim dies, there is an investigation to find the reason and awareness is acute. But over time, this wanes and is only rekindled when there is another fatality. International pharmaceutical companies also have Hong Kong on a string. With profit in mind, they selectively choose where they market their much-needed medications and for what price. They are already under fire from such organisations as the World Health Organisation and Medicins Sans Frontiers for not making drugs for diseases such as Aids and malaria available to poorer nations at a more affordable cost. The problem for the territory is that the small market for rarely used medications means the firms do not even bother selling their drugs here. They say that licensing and marketing costs do not generate sufficient income to justify making available drugs that will be used by only a handful of people each year. In emergency cases, therefore, doctors are forced to make rushed queries to hospitals like Princess Margaret or Queen Mary to see if the drugs are in their pharmacies and, if not, the search goes international to Singapore, Australia or the United States. This can cost time in a case where treatment is urgently needed. The immediate question is that if Singapore - less than half the size of Hong Kong - can provide drugs to treat rarer diseases, why can't we? There is obviously something wrong with our system and this needs to be rectified to save lives lost as a result of the oversight. The suggestion that a drug 'war chest' be established here is a worthy solution to a problem that can only worsen as Hong Kong people travel more. The Government and professional groups should take urgent steps to rectify a problem that is costing lives.