Doctor suspended 4 months over inappropriate prescription of sleeping pills

Dr Victor Chew was found guilty of professional misconduct for inappropriate prescriptions of benzodiazepines, which are a type of sleeping pill.
Dr Victor Chew was found guilty of professional misconduct for inappropriate prescriptions of benzodiazepines, which are a type of sleeping pill.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A doctor has been suspended for four months and fined $12,000 for professional misconduct over inappropriate prescription of addictive medication to a patient over several years.

The Singapore Medical Council (SMC) said on Wednesday (July 5) that Dr Victor Chew pleaded guilty to professional misconduct for inappropriate prescriptions of benzodiazepines, a type of sleeping pill.

The 52-year-old doctor, with more than two decades of experience, was a general practitioner at Canberra Medical Clinic in Sembawang. He had a complaint lodged against him five years ago by the patient's brother for prescribing excessive benzodiazepines to the patient, who was suffering from upper respiratory tract infection, cough and insomnia, between 2008 and 2012.

This was despite being aware that the patient had become addicted to the pills and was also suffering from anxiety disorders and depression, which would be worsened by the use of benzodiazepines, said the release.

The disciplinary tribunal inquiry convened by SMC, which was held on Feb 15 and April 7 this year, showed numerous aggravating factors. These include combining benzodiazepines and codeine-containing cough mixtures on 13 occasions - which breached guidelines - and the fact that Dr Chew has been a doctor for more than 20 years.

The 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 inquiry also found that Dr Chew was not financially motivated in making the inappropriate medical prescriptions.

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

Dr Chew's suspension from medical practice is from Wednesday till Nov 4.