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Medical doctor convicted for selling 2,300 litres of cough mixture to drug abusers

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The Court yesterday (17 Jan), sentenced a foreigner who practices as a medical doctor here to two years imprisonment and a fine of $130,000. He was convicted for selling 25,765 bottles of cough mixtures and were worth more than $600,000.

The doctor, a permanent resident, is a repeat offender who was in 2010 suspended by the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) for 6 months for 22 charges of professional misconduct. He was also fined $5,000 for pleading guilty to the charges of of inappropriately prescribing a hypnotic medication and Subutex. He further gave a written undertaking to SMC that he will not repeat such misconduct.

The doctor, Tan Gek Young (61), illegally sold over 2,300 litres of cough mixtures from early 2014 to June 2015. On average he sold 57 bottles of the standard 90ml cough mixtures daily.

Noting that this was one of the more serious aggravating features of this case, District Judge Lim Tse Haw said that the authorities trust doctors to prescribe the appropriate amount of cough mixtures to patients to cure them.

This case involves one of the highest quantities of Codeine cough preparations prosecuted by the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) so far.

“Hence, when a doctor betrays this trust and indiscriminately sells such cough preparations to drug addicts because of the lucrative nature of the illegal sales, the law must come down hard on such a black sheep of this honourable profession,” the judge said.

“It is as if he knew that his time will be up soon and was trying to make as much money as possible before he had to stop his medical practice, knowing full well at all times that (this drug abuser) and other purchasers will be reselling the cough preparations to other drug abusers,” he added.

Dr Tan who was running Meridian Polyclinic and Surgery at Bedok North is said to be known among drug abusers as someone who was willing to pass bottles of Codeine upon their request in the consultation room. He would then charge them between $25 to $30 for each 90ml bottle. He also sold 3.8-litre canisters of cough mixtures to four abusers, which were priced between $1,000 to $1,100 each.

Even a raid by HSA and the Central Narcotics Bureau in July 2014 did not deter Dr Tan. He reportedly sold 108 canisters to a drug addict from January to June 2015.

 

Calling the act of the doctor ‘disgraceful’ which tarnished the medical profession, the judge agreed with the prosecution that a deterrent sentence was called for in the case, as the “previous sentences imposed for similar offences are no longer sufficient to deter this very lucrative illicit trade, especially one committed by a medical doctor.”

Dr Tan is appealing the sentence and bail was set at $60,000. The maximum punishment under the Poisons Act is a $10,000 fine and two years’ jail per charge; and under the Medicines Act, a $5,000 fine and two years in jail.

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