Doctor fined $5,000 in novel weight-loss advertisement case

SINGAPORE - A doctor in Singapore has been fined $5,000 and censured in a case believed to be the first of its kind here.

In an advertisement for the firm Avenza's weight-loss product Reduze, Dr Tan Yew Weng had called himself the firm's medical director and claimed that he was impressed by clinical studies of the product's effectiveness.

This technically did not breach the Singapore Medical Council's ethical guidelines, which state that doctors cannot refer to their qualifications and services when they are involved in non-medical business. The rule is to prevent the public from being misled into believing that the non-medical product or service is medically beneficial or is being endorsed by a doctor.

But, in fact, Dr Tan was only a director of the firm, not a medical director, according to the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority's records.

"The addition of the word 'medical' gives readers of the advertisement the impression that the product would have been safe for use, medically beneficial and has been endorsed by a physician," said a three-member disciplinary tribunal in its grounds of decision released on Tuesday.

"We are inclined toward the view that the decision to add the word 'medical' was pre-meditated and calculated to leverage on his professional qualification as a medical practitioner," it added.