SINGAPORE: A doctor was suspended from medical practice for three years from Monday (May 4) and fined S$25,000 for overprescribing cough mixtures containing codeine to 10 patients.
Dr Andrew Tang Yen Ho, who practised at Tang Medical and Surgery at Block 8 Jalan Batu, also “blatantly refused” to attend any of the disciplinary hearings or “cooperate in any way with the investigations”, the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) tribunal said in its grounds of decision on Monday.
Following audit checks on the clinic’s medical records by Ministry of Health (MOH) officers on Oct 30, 2015, the ministry sent a letter to the SMC on Nov 17, 2015 expressing concern over the way Dr Tang prescribed medication.
After an investigation by the SMC and “repeated failure” of Dr Tang to respond to the investigations, the council served a notice of inquiry on the doctor on Feb 19, asking him to turn up for the tribunal hearings, but he did not.
He faced 30 charges involving 10 patients, including the inappropriate prescription of cough mixtures, failure to exercise due care in managing the patients’ medical conditions, and the failure to keep proper medical records.
A notice of inquiry was hand delivered to his home on Feb 19, 2019, and received by his domestic helper, but he did not respond to the notice.
SMC also tried contacting him via letters, emails and phone calls between Apr 1, 2019 and Apr 26, 2019, during which Dr Tang picked up once and was notified of the hearings.
He failed to turn up for a pre-inquiry conference on Apr 29, 2019, after which a tribunal hearing date was set for Aug 5 to Aug 7, 2019.
A letter informing Dr Tang of the hearing dates was hand delivered and received by his mother, and emails and another letter was sent, but he was absent for the tribunal hearings.
He also did not show up for the verdict, sentencing submissions and sentencing hearings despite being informed.
The tribunal found him guilty of inappropriate prescription, but acquitted him of the other charges.
Dr Tang had prescribed 270ml of cough mixture containing codeine to the 10 patients on multiple occasions, the tribunal was told. MOH limits the sale of cough mixtures containing codeine to 240ml per customer within four days.
He had also been previously convicted by a disciplinary committee in May 2013 for the inappropriate prescription of hypnotic medication and cough mixtures containing codeine, among other disciplinary offences. On that occasion, his registration was suspended for six months, and he was fined S$10,000.
“As the respondent has decided not to participate in these (latest) proceedings, the disciplinary tribunal infers that he would have known what the recommended guideline quantity was, particularly because of his prior conviction … It is therefore clear to the disciplinary tribunal he had deliberately departed from those guidelines,” the grounds read.
Besides the suspension and fine, Dr Tang was also ordered to pay the costs of the solicitors to SMC.