Singapore

Doctor who overprescribed cough mixtures with codeine suspended, fined

A doctor has been suspended for three years and fined $25,000 for overprescribing cough mixtures containing codeine to 10 patients.

This is the second such infringement for Dr Andrew Tang Yen Ho of Tang Medical & Surgery at Block 8 Jalan Batu.

In May 2013, the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) suspended him for six months over a similar offence. Dr Tang, who was also fined $10,000, gave an undertaking then that he would not re-offend.

But in 2015, the Ministry of Health (MOH) audited the medical records at Dr Tang's clinic and was concerned over his prescription of cough mixtures containing codeine.

Codeine is an opiate and excessive use could lead to addiction and abuse.

The ministry then sent a letter to the SMC to investigate the matter. But the doctor did not respond to any of SMC's queries, which forced the professional watchdog to serve him a notice of inquiry in February last year.

Dr Tang faced 30 charges involving three offences against each of the 10 patients: inappropriate prescription of the cough mixture; failure to exercise competent and due care of his patients; and failure to keep proper medical records.

GUILTY

The disciplinary tribunal (DT) found him guilty of inappropriate prescription, but acquitted him of the other charges.

In its written judgment published yesterday, the tribunal said: "The number of times the respondent 'overprescribed' the quantity of cough mixture containing codeine for each patient ranged from four to 21 times."

As the tribunal is empowered to impose a maximum suspension of only three years, the SMC counsel asked for the doctor to be struck off the register, to reflect the severity of the offence.

But the tribunal did not agree that "just because the DT cannot impose any heavier suspension sanction than three years, a striking off is the only other option".

This, it said, would violate the principle as "a striking off would be a crushing sentence on the respondent in relation to the level of misconduct".

MEDICAL & HEALTH