A doctor was sentenced to two years imprisonment and S$130,000 fine for selling 25,765 bottles worth more than $600,000 of cough mixture to drug addicts over a period of 15 months.
Health Sciences Authority (HSA) said that this was one of the highest quantities of illegal codeine sales in the country.
The operation was carried out in from 2014 to June 2015 in which the doctor, Tan Gek Young, 61, sold over 2,300 litres of the mixture, which means the average of 57 bottles of the standard 90ml cough preparation sold daily.
District Judge Lim Tse Haw told the Court yesterday (17 January) that this is clearly one of the more serious aggravating features of this case.
He also noted that the authorities trust doctors to prescribe the appropriate amount of cough mixture to patients to cure them.
“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 District Judge said.
Dr Tan was generally known among drug abusers, as he was willing to pass abusers bottles upon their request in the consultation room. He would then charged them between S$25 to S$30 for each 90ml bottle.
The man who was running Meridian Polyclinic and Surgery at Bedok North would then sold 3.8-litre canisters of cough mixture to four abusers, which was priced between S$1,000 to S$1,100 each.
The illegal activities occurred between January 2014 and June 2015, in which during this period, the clinic was raided by the HSA and the Central Narcotics Bureau in July 2014.
However, Dr Tan decided to start selling to drug abusers again. He even sold 108 canisters to a drug addict from January to June 2015.
This was actually not his first time of doing this particular offence. In 2010, the Singapore permanent resident pleaded guilty to 22 charges of professional misconduct levied against him by the Singapore Medical Council. At that time, he was suspended from practice for six months and fined $5,000. He was also ordered to give a written undertaking not to repeat such misconduct.
DJ Lim 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 also said what Tan did was “disgraceful” and tarnished the medical profession’s good reputation, adding, “In the circumstances, a deterrent sentence is clearly called for. I further agree with the prosecution that 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.’
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.