A general practitioner has been suspended for four months and fined S$15,000 by the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) for over-prescribing sleeping pills to his patients.
A disciplinary inquiry found that Dr Joseph Heng Boon Wah of Heng Clinic and Surgery at Bedok Reservoir Road had prescribed inappropriate amounts of benzodiazepines and other sleeping drugs to his patients over a three-month period, SMC said on Tuesday (Sep 20).
He was also found to have failed to refer his patients, including those who showed signs of drug dependence and abuse, to a medical specialist or psychiatrist.
He pleaded guilty to 47 charges of professional misconduct and will be censured on top of the suspension and fine. Another 31 charges were taken into consideration by a disciplinary tribunal.
Dr Heng must also give a written undertaking to the SMC that he will not engage in any inappropriate conduct. He will also have to pay the costs and expenses of and incidental to the proceedings, including the costs of the solicitors, to the SMC.
In his mitigation plea, the doctor said he was remorseful and had cooperated fully with the SMC’s investigation. He also cited his contributions to the underprivileged and good testimonials from his patients.
However, the SMC noted that the inappropriate prescription of sleeping pills is a “serious misconduct” and that the long-term consumption may lead to drug dependence and tolerance by the "substantial number” of patients involved.
Hence, the main sentencing consideration "must be one of deterrence", SMC added.
Dr Heng's suspension takes effect from Sep 20 and will run until Jan 19, 2017.