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Response to media enquiries about patients reselling COVID-19 oral drugs illegally
     In response to media enquiries on patients reselling COVID-19 oral drugs, a Government spokesman today (January 12) reminded members of the public that they should take the COVID-19 oral drugs according to the doctor's instructions and complete the entire course of treatment if they are prescribed with relevant medications after consultation. It is an offence to give or resell the prescribed drugs to others.

     The Hospital Authority (HA) has adopted a series of measures to prevent the illegal resale of COVID-19 oral drugs. Doctors will only prescribe COVID-19 oral drugs for suitable patients who meet clinical guidelines, including those aged 60 or above, as well as high-risk persons and persons with chronic illnesses under the age of 60. Prior to receiving service at the designated clinics or using the teleconsultation service, patients must provide identification documents, such as identity cards, and proof of tested positive for COVID-19, such as isolation orders or SMS notifications of positive test results, for verification purpose. During the consultation process, the doctor will evaluate the symptoms, medical history, and other clinical conditions of the patients to determine whether prescription of oral drugs is appropriate. The pharmacy department of public hospitals has also adopted a new policy that packaging boxes of the oral drugs will be removed before dispensing to patients with a view to preventing the drugs from being resold in boxes.

     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. In addition, COVID-19 oral drugs are classified as Part 1 poisons under the Ordinance. Illegal sale (including supply without payment) or possession of unregistered pharmaceutical products or sale of Part 1 poisons is a criminal offence. The maximum penalty for each offence is a fine of $100,000 and two years' imprisonment.

     The spokesman stressed that, at present, 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).

     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. 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 relevant special restriction to the registration conditions.

     The spokesman reminded members of the public not to buy or consume products of doubtful composition or from unknown sources. The safety, quality and efficacy of unregistered pharmaceutical products are not guaranteed. The Government has established mechanism in place to monitor the sale of pharmaceutical products in the market, and will collect intelligence through various channels. When suspected illegal sale or possession of unregistered pharmaceutical products is detected, investigations would be carried out immediately and any irregularities so found will be dealt with in accordance with the laws.
Ends/Thursday, January 12, 2023
Issued at HKT 22:27
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