Singapore

GP suspended, fined for prescribing pills to addicted patient

Doctor suspended from practice and fined $12,000

A patient who saw a doctor for respiratory infection, cough and insomnia became addicted to the sleeping pills prescribed.

Yet the doctor, who had more than 20 years of experience, prescribed an excessive amount of the pills from 2008 to 2012.

Yesterday, he was suspended from medical practice for four months and fined $12,000.

The Singapore Medical Council (SMC) said in a statement yesterday that Dr Victor Chew pleaded guilty to professional misconduct for inappropriate prescriptions of benzodiazepines, a type of sleeping pills.

The 52-year-old was a general practitioner at Canberra Medical Clinic, now Canberra Medical Aesthetics, in Sembawang.

The SMC said about five years ago, the patient's brother lodged a complaint against Dr Chew for prescribing him excessive benzodiazepines.

This was despite Dr Chew being aware that the patient had become addicted to the pills and had a history of anxiety disorders and depression, which would be worsened by the use of benzodiazepines, said the SMC.

A disciplinary tribunal inquiry on Feb 15 and April 7 this year found numerous aggravating factors.

These included prescriptions combining benzodiazepines and cough mixtures containing codeine on 13 occasions, which breached guidelines, and the fact that Dr Chew had been an experienced doctor.

We were also satisfied that Dr Chew was not motivated by financial gain in making the inappropriate medical prescriptions. Singapore Medical Council on the mitigation factors for Dr Victor Chew

The inquiry's judgment took into consideration mitigating factors, such as Dr Chew's early plea of guilt and his good reputation in the medical profession.

His contributions to the underprivileged in society and the good testimonials tendered on his behalf were also considered.

The SMC added: "We were also satisfied that Dr Chew was not motivated by financial gain in making the inappropriate medical prescriptions."

Dr Chew also pleaded guilty to not properly maintaining the patient's medical records and not referring the patient to a psychiatrist in a timely manner.

His suspension began yesterday and will run till Nov 4.

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