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Saturday, Apr 01, 2023

Hong Kong man arrested for pretending to be Covid patient to get free medication

Hong Kong man arrested for pretending to be Covid patient to get free medication

Suspect, 63, attended nine consultations in two days, seven of which were conducted online, according to police.
Hong Kong police have arrested a 63-year-old man on suspicion of fraud for claiming he was a coronavirus patient and receiving nine consultations in two days to obtain free oral Covid medication.

The Hongkonger was picked up in Tseung Kwan O on Monday after police received a referral from the Department of Health.

The investigation suggested that the man sought nine consultations with different clinics in two days in January, according to a police source.

“He claimed he was paid to obtain and sell the drugs for a profit of HK$1,300 (US$165),” the source said.

He said the investigation showed that seven of the consultations were conducted online.

As of Tuesday night, the man was being held for questioning.

Police said the investigation was continuing, and further arrests were possible.

The arrest was made after Hong Kong Medical Association told the Post in late January that it had received “a handful” of reports from private doctors about people asking for the two registered antivirals in the city, Pfizer’s Paxlovid and MSD’s molnupiravir.

It said some visited several doctors on the same day or asked for a prescription for Covid drugs for others they claimed lived in the same household, even though they had different surnames.

Hong Kong residents can obtain both antivirals for free at public hospitals and clinics and specific private practices after consulting a doctor. Non-local residents can only get the medicines at private hospitals or clinics, paying more than HK$6,000 for each course of treatment.

The government on Tuesday said it had been monitoring the usage of the drugs, including the prescription records by public and private doctors via the Electronic Health Record Sharing System (eHRSS).

“Through the eHRSS, the government has noticed individual suspicious prescription records of Covid-19 oral drugs earlier, such as patients obtaining Covid-19 oral drugs supplied by the government from different private doctors within a short period. The cases have been passed to a law enforcement agency for follow-up investigation,” it said.

It added that registered medical practitioners should abide by the relevant laws and professional codes when prescribing drugs.

Earlier this month, Hong Kong customs officers seized about 257,000 tablets of smuggled Covid-19 drugs estimated to be worth more than HK$15 million. Since January, they have arrested 20 suspects.

The government reminded the public that fraud carries a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment upon conviction.

Selling, reselling or supplying drugs requiring a doctor’s prescription without one constitutes an offence under the Pharmacy and Poisons Ordinance, with a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment and a HK$100,000 fine.

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