Clinic supplying cough syrup to addicts, says patient
Student alleges clinic is supplying cough syrup to codeine addicts
Recently, Jason sat in a doctor's office and was given an examination.
He told the doctor about his bad cough.
When Jason (not his real name), a Nanyang Technological University (NTU) student, said that a bottle of cough syrup would help make his cough better, the doctor looked surprised.
Jason, a final-year student at NTU, told The New Paper (TNP): "He thought I needed more. Confused, I said one was enough."
But it all soon began to make sense for Jason.
Earlier on, while waiting to see the doctor, who runs a clinic in the east, Jason had noticed eight people in the queue ahead of him.
Two looked and sounded genuinely sick, but six men appeared suspicious.
Jason said: "None of the six looked sick. They were not coughing or sniffling. They didn't even bother to pretend."
Each of them spent about one minute in the doctor's office. Yet, they all left with three or four bottles of cough syrup containing codeine in white plastic bags, said Jason.
Said Jason, a first-time patient of the clinic: "As a doctor, I thought he should save people (and) not ruin people's lives."
Jason decided to alert TNP, which performed its own investigation recently. (See report below.)
The undergrad says his suspicions were confirmed after he asked one of the "patients" why the clinic had sold him so many bottles of cough mixture. The man, who looked to be in his 30s, allegedly told Jason that the clinic was a place where addicts get their "supplies".
A few days later, Jason "tested" what he learnt from the addict.
After seeing the same doctor, he managed to buy three bottles of cough mixture - each in a 90ml plastic bottle - for $90.
Jason said: "Only one bottle was labelled. And I was given a receipt which did not say what I had paid for."
'Cough' patient gets no receipt, no labels and no explanation
I usually prescribe after a consultation. I usually give smaller bottles in case they want more and don't need them.
- The clinic's doctor denying that he had been lax in giving out cough mixture
When The New Paper visited the clinic, we found the doctor's behaviour suspicious.
Despite the reporter having no cough symptoms, he was given two unlabelled bottles of cough mixture, for which he was charged a hefty $70, without a receipt.
TNP had recently decided to investigate Jason's claims and visited the clinic armed with an audio recorder and a video camera.
Our aim was to buy cough mixture which contained codeine - a Class B drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act - and investigate if the clinic had been lax in dispensing the drug. Only doctors and licensed pharmacists are authorised to dispense cough medicine containing codeine, limiting a patient to 240ml per visit.
At the counter, I observed a male patient "bargaining" with a female staff member.
The man was later photographed exiting the clinic with three bottles of an unidentified dark-coloured substance which he supposedly paid $70 for.
My consultation with the doctor lasted around three minutes.
I complained of coughing, losing my voice and an itchy nose.
But I never once coughed in his presence. I only spoke in a low voice.
The middle-aged doctor took my temperature and listened to my chest. He did not check my throat.
And then, he asked me the question I was waiting for: "So, what do you want?"
I replied: "Ahh... If you can give me some cough medicine?"
The cheery-sounding doctor said: "Cough medicine, ah?"
I told him I wanted more than a bottle.
The doctor replied: "Okay, all right, ah. (Your) nose a bit wet... Two la, hor? Not too many, hor?"
By prescribing two 90ml bottles of cough syrup, the doctor did not appear to be breaking any medical regulations.
Maybe he was being careful.
After all, he had previously been suspended from his medical practice and fined for professional misconduct. The doctor had failed to exercise due care in the management of patients.
Last Saturday, he denied any wrongdoing when confronted by The New Paper.
He said: "No, it's not true at all... I usually prescribe after a consultation. I usually give smaller bottles in case they want more and don't need them."
But when it came to collecting my medicine during my previous visit, I was surprised at the way it was dispensed.
The same female staff member told me my "medicine" cost $70.
Obviously shocked, I repeated the figure.
She said loudly, pointing to the two 90ml bottles of cough syrup inside a white plastic bag: "Yes! You only want these, right?"
With no choice, I agreed and left the clinic.
I instantly realised I was not given a receipt and the two bottles were not labelled.
She had also failed to explain the side-effects of the drug to me.
I found this strange as the patient before me was given a full explanation on his medication and instructions on how much to consume.
When questioned later, the doctor claimed: "All my bottles are labelled. I have to speak to my nurse about that (allegations of unlabelled bottles of cough syrup)."