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Doctors suspected of drug smuggling

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The Medical Council of Thailand's ethics committee today will start probing the case of two doctors who have been accused of being involved in the smuggling and distribution of Phentermine weight loss pills.

"If the evidence is clear and they are found guilty, the council will punish them. This is a case where doctors are wrongdoers for [being linked to] drug smuggling," Ittaporn Kanacharoen, secretary-general of the council said yesterday.

He said the council usually found cases of doctors illegally prescribing drugs doing it in the name of a deceased doctor. The council could warn them, suspend their medical licences, or revoke their licences to practise.

A further investigation is being carried out to find the mastermind who is believed to run the illegal business in both domestic and international markets, he said.

The council's probe follows the arrest of gang that smuggled Phentermine pills early this week.

Police arrested a female model and other suspects during a raid in Bangkok's Phatthanakarn area. They were wanted in connection with the production of unlicensed diet pills made using Phentermine, a restricted psychostimulant with similar pharmacological make-up to amphetamines.

Among those arrested were two doctors accused of prescribing drugs to sell in the local market.

An investigation jointly conducted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and police found there is an online trade for Phentermine.

Phentermine, which has a strong influence on the brain and can lead to addiction -- and, in some cases, death -- can only be prescribed legally in licensed hospitals or clinics.

The drug is also dangerous for people who have heart disease, high blood pressure and mental illness.

The dose is typically for only four to six weeks due to its strong side-effects on the body.

Dr Ittaporn also warned young doctors about the perils of smuggling any drugs.

"That [drug smuggling] will tarnish the reputation of the medical profession and have an impact on young doctors who want to pursue further education," he added.

The FDA and police are working closely together to find out more details to identify the mastermind.

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