Three arrested in sting operation, THB10m worth of Covid medicines seized
Police and Public Health Ministry officials have cracked down on online sales of unlicensed Covid medicine and arrested three suspects in a sting operation, seizing 10 million baht worth of drugs.
The operation took place several days after a well-known science lecturer of Chulalongkorn University, Jessada Denduangboriphat, posted on his Facebook wall that he had to buy the Molnupiravir anti-viral drug for his family members after doctors refused to administer them the drug.
The results of the operation were announced jointly at a press conference by Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, Public Health permanent secretary Kiatphum Wongrajit, Food and Drug Administration secretary-general Paisarn Dunkum, and Consumer Protection Police Division (CPPD) commander Pol Lt-General Anan Nanasombat.
Anutin said the joint operation led to the busting of a network that had been selling unlicensed drugs online for about two months.
The operation netted some 80,000 tablets of Favipiravir and Molnupiravir and some doses of Remdesivir ampoules, as well as anti-Covid nasal sprays.
Anutin said the drug has not been registered with and approved by the FDA, so the medicine cannot be distributed in Thailand.
He said Covid medicine should not be bought online for personal use because the drug is under special control and has been registered for use under emergency situation and must be administered only by doctors.
Anutin said the authorities did not check whether the seized medicines were genuine or fake, but they were not registered and must be destroyed without being donated to anyone.
“Covid patients for whom doctors have not prescribed Molnupiravir should not buy the drug on their own as it could endanger their health,” Anutin warned.
After lecturer Jessada’s Facebook post last week, Anutin cried foul and threatened to locate and arrest the seller of the medicine.
After learning of the arrest, Jessada insisted that people should have the right to buy Molnupiravir to treat Covid as soon as possible. He said it would a pity if the 80,000 seized pills would be wasted instead of being used to save lives.
Jessada, who is well-known for scientifically disproving many “urban legends”, has been campaigning on his Facebook wall for the government to stop controlling Covid drugs, so that the medicine would be available in drug stores as in neighbouring countries. He highlighted that people in Laos no longer fear Covid because they can buy Molnupiravir in drug stores for only 300 baht per course.
Speaking at the same press conference, CPPD commander Anan said police pretended to be buyers of the drug via Facebook and Instagram accounts before they sought search warrants that led to the arrest.
Anan said the two online shops had got the drug from the same source, which was a house in Bangkok’s Wang Thong Lang district. Police searched the house and arrested the house owner after finding a huge lot of drugs. The house owner was identified as Chaluarat.
She later implicated two other suspects, Prasert and Khanittha, who were arrested on Tuesday. Prasert was arrested at his house in Talinchan and Kanittha in Wang Thong Lang.
Anan said the three had got the drug from an Indian trader, who mostly mailed the medicine to them as parcel.
Kiatphum told the press conference that not all Covid patients would require the anti-viral drug so they should believe the treatment offered by qualified doctors instead of self-medication.
He said the Public Health Ministry has distributed enough medicine to all hospitals nationwide. He said stocks of Favipiravir and Molnupiravir would be enough for 14 more days and the ministry was buying 10 million more Favipiravir pills, 20 million Molnupiravir pills and 80,000 vials of Remdesivir.
The FDA chief said it was illegal to bring in drugs from neighbouring countries, as they have not been registered with the FDA so their quality and safety cannot be guaranteed.