Records showed that the accused doctors falsely registered the names of deceased people as patients when ordering the controlled drugs from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
“We detected irregularities since late last year,” FDA secretary-general Dr Tares Krassanairawiwong said yesterday.
If convicted, the accused doctors will face a jail term of up to 30 years, a fine of up to Bt3 million and may even have their assets seized. They will also face disciplinary action by the Medical Council.
According to Tares, just four state hospitals, 38 private hospitals and 484 clinics in Thailand have registered for the use of phentermine. This psychotropic drug – which can also perpetuate weight loss – is a prescription drug with doctors required to report monthly on the patients taking it. Evidence also suggests that these clinics used diazepam – another psychotropic and controlled drug – in the weight-loss recipe.
In recent months, some clinics sent in orders to the FDA for up to 5,000 phentermine tablets – the maximum allowed per purchase.
“Hence we raided 33 sites to uncover the illegal network. Evidence suggests that nine clinics and seven doctors may have been involved in the network,” Tares said.
Of the clinics raided, one was in Nong Bua Lamphu, one in Udon Thani, two in Nakhon Ratchasima, two in Ubon Ratchathani, two in Phitsanulok and two in Tak, he said.
“Police are also seeking warrants against two doctors who ran clinics. Five other doctors are now treated as witnesses,” he added.
FDA deputy secretary-general Dr Surachoke Tangwiwat said phentermine could be used for no more than two weeks, and it can only be done under close medical supervision.
“It can cause hypertension, bleeding in the brain, heart failure and even death,” he warned.
The Health Service Support Department has decided to take action against medical facilities involved.
“We are coordinating with relevant authorities for evidence,” the department’s deputy director-general Arkhom Praditsuwan said.
Pol Lt-General Chinnapat Sarasin, chief of the Royal Thai Police’s Narcotics Suppression Bureau (NSB), said yesterday that his agency would summon the two accused doctors to testify next Tuesday.
The NSB led a raid on 33 sites across the country as part of its “Sayob Pairee: Yasuay Sanghan” or “Subduing the enemy: deadly beauty medicine” operation. The raid included the luxurious home of entrepreneur Wirairat Udthong in Bangkok’s Suan Luang district.
A court issued a warrant for Wirairat’s arrest last month and she was taken into custody and charged with being in possession with the intent to sell phentermine, a Schedule II controlled substance, and diazepam and clorazepate, which are controlled under Schedule IV.
Some of Wirairat’s weight-loss products allegedly contain controlled substances, which she is believed to have got hold of by paying a doctor up to Bt70,000 to order the substances via the FDA.