Government reminds public not to resell or provide to others COVID-19 oral drugs

     The Government today (February 28) reminded members of the public not to resell or provide to others COVID-19 oral drugs, nor should they attempt to obtain COVID-19 oral drugs through improper means. It is an offence to illegally possess, sell or resell (including supply without payment) COVID-19 oral drugs. Obtaining COVID-19 oral drugs through improper means may well constitute the related criminal offence, liable to imprisonment.
     The Government has all along been monitoring the usage of COVID-19 oral drugs supplied by the Government, including the prescription records input by public and private doctors via the Electronic Health Record Sharing System (eHRSS). Registered medical practitioners should abide by the relevant laws and the Code of Professional Conduct for the Guidance of Registered Medical Practitioners (the Code) at all times when prescribing drugs (including COVID-19 oral drugs). With a view to further reducing the possibility of the abuse of drugs, enhancements have been made to the eHRSS from time to time in accordance with the actual usage of the system, including the addition of a prompt message to facilitate doctors in viewing the prescription history of patients. Letters were also sent to private doctors, reminding them to input the prescription record at the time of prescription.

     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 of time. The cases have been passed to a law enforcement agency for follow-up investigation. The Government reminded members of the public not to defy the law and attempt to obtain COVID-19 oral drugs through improper means (including deceiving doctors). The act may constitute the offence of fraud, which carries the maximum penalty of 14 years' imprisonment upon conviction. Members of the public are also reminded not to resell or provide to others prescribed COVID-19 oral drugs legally obtained from doctors, regardless of whether the drugs are supplied by the Government for free or self-purchased from the doctors. Selling, reselling or supplying without payment of drugs requiring a doctor's prescription constitute the related offence under the Pharmacy and Poisons Ordinance (Cap. 138), with the maximum penalty of a fine of $100,000 and two years' imprisonment.

     The Government will continue to closely monitor the situation. If any irregularities, criminal acts or contravention of the Code are noticed, the Government will take strict enforcement actions and pass relevant information to enforcement departments or the Medical Council of Hong Kong for follow-up as appropriate.

     Currently, people who have tested positive for COVID-19 can seek medical attention from private doctors. The Government started to provide COVID-19 oral drugs to private doctors for free since April last year with a view to enabling them to prescribe to eligible COVID-19 patients with needs. The two COVID-19 oral drugs supplied in Hong Kong (Paxlovid and Molnupiravir) have been registered as pharmaceutical products in Hong Kong in accordance with the Pharmacy and Poisons Regulations (Cap. 138A). Private doctors can procure the two COVID-19 oral drugs from the drug manufacturers and prescribe them for COVID-19 patients with needs on a self-financed basis.

     The spokesman pointed out that currently the two COVID-19 oral drugs could only be supplied to healthcare institutions and doctors in public and private sectors, and patients can only obtain the drugs with a prescription by registered medical practitioners. Doctors would only prescribe the relevant drugs to COVID-19 patients for treatment needs. Guidelines, fact sheets on the use of the drugs as well as other points to note formulated by the Hospital Authority (HA) are available for download on the online platform. Private doctors must follow the treatment guidelines set out by the HA. In general, a COVID-19 patient would only be prescribed with one course of treatment of COVID-19 oral drug (Paxlovid contains 30 tablets for one course of treatment while Molnupiravir contains 40 capsules).

Ends/Tuesday, February 28, 2023
Issued at HKT 18:30