11 February 2013

Namibia: Abortion Pills Falsely Claimed

A MEDICAL practitioner working from Windhoek North says fake prescription forms with his name and registration number are being used to get pharmacies to dispense medicines, particularly the abortion-inducing Cytotec tablets.

The doctor, who prefers that his name not be made public at this stage, said he first became aware of the scam in January when three different pharmacies called him to enquire about suspicious prescriptions that were presumed to have emanated from his surgery.

He said from evidence so far obtained, a syndicate is using old prescription forms, in use some six years ago, with only the contact details changed.

It was not clear by yesterday how widely the operation had spread and how many pharmacies have been affected.

While the fake prescriptions order a range of other medications, without fail all of these prescriptions order Cytotec, a pill for the treatment of stomach ulcers which can also be used to induce abortion, in high dosages.

The Cytotec pills are known to be sold illegally on the street at about N$300 per pill.

Usually 30 Cytotec tablets are prescribed to be used once a day. On the fake prescriptions, in some instances 60 tablets are ordered to be taken three times a day, which could lead to an overdose.

"All pharmacies know what the medication is used for. The prescription looks genuine, but pharmacies must look out for prescriptions with lots of Cytotec on," the frustrated doctor said on Friday.

"Someone must have got hold of the old prescription forms I used, and it would appear that a syndicate is now using those to go to pharmacies with those," he said.

He said he is convinced that a syndicate instead of an individual is involved, because it would appear that someone writes out the prescriptions, another goes to the pharmacies, and another answers the telephone numbers appearing on the fake prescriptions.

When he became aware of the scam, the doctor phoned one of the numbers on the fake prescriptions, and talked to someone with a foreign accent presumably from the Southern African region, likely from Malawi, Zambia, or Zimbabwe.

Telecom Namibia told The Namibian that the landline number on the fake prescriptions belongs to a company called Alpha East Grab-a-Phone on Independence Avenue.

When dialling the number, a certain James answered the phone and confirmed that it was the telephone number of Alpha East Grab-a-Phone, a company that offers printing, faxing and telephone services.

When The Namibian asked to speak to the owner of the business, James said the owner was currently in Dubai and would be back in Namibia soon.

However, he later said he was the owner of the company, and denied any knowledge of how his company's telephone number could have ended up on a doctor's prescription form.

James later said that he would like to set up an appointment with The Namibian on Wednesday to discuss the matter.

For the doctor, the matter is serious, and he feels the police have so far not done much in the last two weeks to stop the scam, which could endanger someone's life.

"My name and my reputation is on the line. This is potentially a danger to the public and is of course illegal," the doctor said. "The problem I have is that these people are impersonating me out there. It does not augur well for my professional reputation. Who knows? I might be called 'Dr Abortion' out there," the distraught doctor said.

He had intended to go to the Dental and Medical Council, but said he was not sure what mechanism the council would use to stop the fraud.

Worrying also is that the supposed patients' names appearing on the fake prescriptions are all members of the government medical aid scheme, the Public Service Employees Medical Aid Scheme (PSEMAS).

"I cannot tell if someone working at the government medical aid scheme is also in the game or if the scheme is unaware of it," said the doctor, reiterating his warning to pharmacies to be on the lookout for prescriptions of large dosages of Cytotec.

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