Man arrested for suspected illegal sale of unregistered COVID-19 oral drug through social media platform (with photo)

     The Department of Health (DH) today (January 11) conducted a joint operation with the Police against illegal sale of COVID-19 oral drugs. During the operation, a 37-year-old man was arrested for suspected illegal sale of unregistered pharmaceutical product and a prescription drug containing Part 1 Third Schedule poison, namely Primovir.

     The DH recently received intelligence about the sale of COVID-19 oral drugs on social media platform. The DH immediately conducted an investigation and mounted a joint operation today with the Police. The DH's investigation is continuing.

     According to the Pharmacy and Poisons Ordinance (Cap. 138), all pharmaceutical products must be registered with the Pharmacy and Poisons Board of Hong Kong before they can be legally sold in the market. Illegal sale or possession of unregistered pharmaceutical products or sale of Part 1 Third Schedule poisons without a doctor's prescription is a criminal offence. The maximum penalty for each offence is a fine of $100,000 and two years' imprisonment.

     Currently, only two types of COVID-19 oral drugs, namely Paxlovid and Molnupiravir, supplied in Hong Kong by two drug manufacturers (Pfizer Corporation Hong Kong Limited and Merck Sharp & Dohme (Asia) Ltd) have been registered as pharmaceutical products in Hong Kong in accordance with the Pharmacy and Poisons Regulations (Cap. 138A). At present, only these two pharmaceutical products are approved by the Board as registered oral drugs for COVID-19 treatment.

     A spokesman for the DH stressed that currently the two COVID-19 oral drugs could only be supplied to healthcare institutions and doctors in public and private sectors. Patients could only be prescribed the relevant drugs by registered medical practitioners when needed, and drug retail outlets cannot procure the relevant oral drugs from suppliers nor sell them to the public. Having considered factors such as patient's suitability, relevant contraindications and possible side effects of using the two registered COVID-19 oral drugs, the Board has thus imposed the above special restriction to the registration conditions.

     The DH has mechanism in place to monitor the sale of pharmaceutical products in the market, and will collect intelligence through various channels. In general, when suspected illegal sale or possession of unregistered pharmaceutical products is detected, the DH will immediately carry out investigations and conduct joint operations with other law enforcement agencies where necessary, and any irregularities so found will be dealt with in accordance with the laws. The DH and other law enforcement agencies will continue to strengthen inspections and enforcement actions to safeguard public health.

     The spokesman strongly urged members of the public not to buy or consume products of doubtful composition or from unknown sources. All registered pharmaceutical products should carry a Hong Kong registration number on the package in the format of "HK-XXXXX". The safety, quality and efficacy of unregistered pharmaceutical products are not guaranteed.

     â€‹People who have purchased the products concerned should stop using them immediately and consult healthcare professionals if in doubt or feeling unwell after use. They may submit the products to the Drug Office of the DH at Room 1801, Wu Chung House, 213 Queen's Road East, Wan Chai, during office hours for disposal.

Ends/Wednesday, January 11, 2023
Issued at HKT 15:21