Hong Kong doctor gets four months’ jail after 76 boxes of counterfeit HPV vaccines found in his clinic

Victor Ting

A Hong Kong court has jailed a doctor for four months for possessing 76 boxes of counterfeit human papillomavirus (HPV) shots found in his private clinic, in the first recovery of fake vaccines in the city.

The Kwun Tong Magistrates’ Court on Friday convicted Yeung Man-shun, 50, of possession of the HPV shots with a total value of HK$174,800 (US$22,560) “for sale or for any purpose of trade or manufacture goods to which a forged trademark was applied”.

It also fined Harmony Medical Care Service, where Yeung was a director, HK$20,000 for the same offence. Yeung pleaded guilty to the charge.

The vaccines are intended for protection against the HPV, which increases the risk of, among several other diseases, cervical cancer – the seventh-most common cancer among local women in 2016. That year saw 510 new cases.

Customs seize 76 boxes of suspected counterfeit HPV vaccines in Hong Kong

The Customs and Excise Department and the Department of Health mounted a joint operation in July last year and seized 76 boxes of the counterfeit medical equipment, as well as 47 boxes of genuine vaccines from Yeung’s clinic in Kwun Tong. The estimated market value of all the goods was about HK$280,000.

The health department’s drug office at the time said it received a complaint after a person got an HPV shot at the medical centre earlier that month.

“The complainant spoke of very mild redness and swelling at the injected area,” said Lot Chan Sze-tao, the office’s chief pharmacist, adding the authority did not receive any other complaints regarding the medical centre.

We believe that the centre tried to con patients by providing real products to those who questioned

Chief pharmacist Lot Chan

“[It is possible] the fake vaccines do not contain any active ingredients, so they will not provide any protection,” he said. “In [the] worst case, the products might contain harmful substances, causing safety issues.”

The facility had two fridges where they kept the suspected counterfeit and real vaccines separately.

“We believe that the centre tried to con patients by providing real products to those who questioned,” Chan said.

Clinic that is under investigation for sourcing of HPV vaccine closes down

The centre, which was registered with the Companies Registry in May last year and only provided vaccination services, has stopped operations.

The vaccine is produced by US drug company Merck, known as MSD outside America, and has been in huge demand in Hong Kong. Many women from mainland China have also sought doses in Hong Kong.

The price for three doses in a private clinic ranges from about HK$5,000 to HK$8,000.

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