Doc fined $5k for breaching guidelines in ad
A DOCTOR has been fined $5,000 and reprimanded for breaching ethical guidelines that bar physicians from noting their medical qualifications in their non-medical businesses.
The case - believed to be the first of its kind here - centres on a firm called Avenza that sells weight-loss supplement Reduze.
It is regarded as a non-medical product and is not licensed by the Health Sciences Authority.
Dr Tan Yew Weng, 43, called himself the firm's medical director in an advertisement for Reduze and said that he was impressed by results of clinical studies on the product.
But Dr Tan, who runs David Tan Medical Aesthetics in Orchard Road, was Avenza's director and not medical director, according to the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority records.
Singapore Medical Council (SMC) rules bar doctors from referring to their qualifications and services in their non-medical businesses. The rule is meant to prevent the public from being misled into believing that a non-medical product is medically beneficial or endorsed by a doctor.
A three-member SMC disciplinary tribunal said in its grounds of decision published yesterday that Dr Tan had not referred to his academic qualifications and the details of his clinic in the advertisement for Reduze.
But it said that his decision to call himself Avenza's "medical director" in the ad "was calculated to leverage on his professional qualification as a medical practitioner".
It added: "We are of the view that (Dr Tan) took a pre- meditated and calculated move to draw attention to the fact that he was a medical practitioner... thus contravening the guidelines. There was clearly an intention to use his medical qualification to benefit himself by swaying potential consumers to purchase the product."
In deciding on Dr Tan's punishment, it looked at previous cases, including one in which a doctor had used an advertisement to mislead people into thinking a therapy centre was a licensed medical clinic.
It also noted that it was Dr Tan's first offence in about 16 years of medical practice, and accepted that he was relatively new to the non-medical product business when the ad was published.
Dr Tan told The Straits Times that the guidelines are "not entirely clear-cut and well defined, and subject to broad interpretations".
He added that there should be a faster way for the SMC to resolve such issues. If it had contacted him soon after the ad was published in 2010, he said that he would have rectified the problem quickly, avoiding the legal process.