Cough syrup conviction: GP suspended 12 months

A general practitioner has been suspended for 12 months for supplying cough syrup to addicts .

Dr Liew Kert Chian, 46, was practising at Temasek Clinic & Surgery in Bedok when he supplied 90ml bottles of cough syrup to more than 30 addicts at $22 each. He did this without making prescriptions and left no records of the sales, made between Jan 2 and Oct 5 in 2011.

At a disciplinary hearing by the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) on Feb 4, he pleaded guilty to one charge of having been convicted of an offence implying a defect in character. He was ordered to pay a penalty of $5,000.

In a press release yesterday, the SMC said 266 litres of Procodin syrup and 11.4 litres of Beacodyl were unaccounted for.

"This was not a case of mere inadvertence or inexperience on the part of Dr Liew in failing to keep proper records," said the council.

The records of the sales were first made in pencil on the addicts' treatment cards, and later erased. There were no records in the dispensing record or in the treatment cards.

In mitigation, Dr Liew's lawyer said the doctor is the sole breadwinner and has to support his wife, daughters aged seven and 12, and 81-year-old bedridden mother.

However, the tribunal found it "deeply troubling" that he had recorded the purchases of the cough syrup in pencil in the patients' treatment cards, and erased them later.

This clearly showed a high degree of planning. Also, this was not a case in which he stopped selling the syrup to the addicts "on his own volition out of remorse", said the SMC.

The offence came to light when a friend of an addict told the Health Sciences Authority that her friend had been abusing cough mixtures and pills bought from the doctor.

"By profiting from his patients' addiction, instead of properly treating them for their addiction, Dr Liew had recklessly disregarded the potential harm that could be caused to these patients."

Dr Liew's 12-month suspension took effect on March 19. He was convicted in the Subordinate Courts in October 2013 of supplying cough syrup without keeping a proper record, and was fined $4,500.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 02, 2016, with the headline 'Cough syrup conviction: GP suspended 12 months'. Print Edition | Subscribe