Clinic CEO supplied medications to man, knowing they would be resold to drug addicts

Chan Weng Wah, who was from Healthlink Medical and Healthgroup Medical in Veerasamy Road, is not a doctor and cannot dispense medications. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - The chief executive of two Little India clinics unlawfully supplied 813.2 litres of codeine cough preparations and 4,100 sleeping tablets to a man despite knowing that they would be resold to drug addicts.

Chan Weng Wah, who was from Healthlink Medical and Healthgroup Medical in Veerasamy Road, earned at least $83,959 in profit.

The Singaporean is not a doctor and cannot dispense medications.

A search with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority revealed that Chan had become a director at Healthlink Medical in February last year. He stopped being a shareholder at Healthgroup Medical last April.

Chan, now 44, was on Friday (Feb 4) sentenced to 48 weeks' jail and a fine of $20,000 after he pleaded guilty to 19 charges under the Health Products Act.

Another 38 similar charges were considered during sentencing. He committed the offences between July 2018 and December 2019.

He will spend an additional three weeks behind bars if he is unable to pay the fine.

Before handing down the sentence, District Judge Marvin Bay said that Chan's act of supplying the Dormicum sleeping tablets - which contain a substance called midazolam maleate - is especially serious.

He added: "Midazolam is a prescription-only medicine and is more tightly regulated than the codeine cough preparations, which are pharmacy-only medicines.

"The usage of Dormicum tablets may lead to the development of both physical and psychological dependence... Such risks of dependence would, of course, be elevated in cases of unsupervised and unauthorised supply."

Ms Debra Ann Tan, prosecuting counsel from the Health Sciences Authority (HSA), told the court that people who overdose on midazolam may end up in a coma.

She said that side effects of codeine may include dizziness, nausea and vomiting.

Severe codeine overdose may also cause respiratory depression, which can be fatal.

The court heard that Healthlink Medical was registered on Feb 14, 2017, to provide health screening services to maids and construction workers.

Chan took over its account with medical product provider Pan-Malayan Pharmaceuticals in April 2018, after the clinic's resident doctor left.

Healthgroup Medical was registered on Sept 11, 2018, to provide screening services related to cancer.

Chan later created an account for it with Pan-Malayan Pharmaceuticals and claimed to be one "Dr Lawrence Chan Weng Wah".

Ms Tan said: "When Pan-Malayan customer service agents made queries as to whether the accused was a qualified medical practitioner, the accused stated that he was not a medical practitioner, but an authorised person listed in the clinic licence issued by the Ministry of Health."

She added that Chan's roles included ordering medicines for Healthlink Medical and conducting inventory checks for both clinics.

Some time in July 2018, Chan met a man known only as Mr Ho, who agreed to loan him $15,000.

In return for the loan, Chan had to place orders with Pan-Malayan Pharmaceuticals for the codeine cough preparations and sleeping tablets.

Mr Ho would then pay him between $400 and $500 per canister containing 3.8 litres of codeine cough preparations. Chan also agreed to provide him the Dormicum tablets for free.

Ms Tan said: "Mr Ho took the codeine cough preparations and sleeping tablets, supplied by the accused, and resold them to addicts in the vicinity of Yishun. The accused was aware of Mr Ho's activities.

"Despite being aware of the illegality of his conduct, the accused engaged in the arrangement with Mr Ho because he had loaned a sum of $15,000 from Mr Ho."

On Dec 23, 2019, HSA's enforcement branch found out from Pan-Malayan Pharmaceuticals that both clinics were placing frequent orders for unusually high amounts of the medications.

Chan's offences came to light after the HSA and the Ministry of Health conducted four joint inspections at the clinics the following year.

Court documents do not disclose if Mr Ho has been dealt with in court.

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