Ministry aides linked to cold pill scandal
A probe into a suspected cold pill smuggling racket is closing in on the aides of senior health ministry officials.
Police and drugs officials inspect a large number of empty cold pill packets which were dumpedin the forest in Chiang Mai’s San Kamphaengdistrict. Police believe the packets contained as manyas 5 million pills. CHEEWINSATTHA
A close aide to the public health minister yesterday handed over evidence related to the racket to the Department of Special Investigation (DSI), which has taken up the probe as a special case.
Earlier, DSI chief Tarit Pengdith met senior public health officials including public health permanent secretary Paijit Warachit and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) secretary-general Pipat Yingseree to discuss the scam.
Up to 48.3 million cold pills are thought to have been stolen from state hospitals and smuggled across the border to make methamphetamines.
Pasit Sakdanarong, adviser to Public Health Minister Witthaya Buranasiri, said the evidence was based on an internal investigation into cold pill thefts at six state hospitals.
The evidence suggested close aides of senior public health officials might be linked to the scam, said Mr Pasit, who also chairs a committee on drug suppression and rehabilitation.
Authorities believe the cold pills, containing pseudoephedrine, were diverted from hospital stores and supplied to methamphetamine factories. Inspections are being carried out at 875 hospitals nationwide.
Mr Tarit said yesterday the DSI has decided to target the network of middlemen who order drugs for their customers.
Police and drug authorities yesterday inspected a large number of empty cold pill packets which were found discarded in a forest in Chiang Mai's San Kamphaeng district.
The empty packets, some of which were shredded, could have contained as many as 5 million tablets from 10 different cold remedies, police say.
The labels on some packets said the pills were produced in Bangkok and Nakhon Pathom's Sam Phran district.
Wichai Chaimongkol, director of Narcotics Control Board's Region 5, said the packets were found at two sites, 3km apart.
Meanwhile, a senior health official in Lampang yesterday confirmed irregularities in the purchase of 4,000 cold pills at Soem Ngam hospital.
Prasert Kijsuwan, a deputy provincial health official, said the irregularities involved the hospital's pharmacist who bought the pills to supply her drug store.
He said the pharmacist resigned to show responsibility before the scandal broke.
In Kalasin's Kamalasai district, meanwhile, a pharmacist has started talking to investigators about pills which have gone missing from his hospital.
Pol Col Wanchai Ronnachartchai, superintendent of Kamalasai police station, said the pharmacist has been charged in connection with the theft of 350,000 cold pills which went missing from Kamalasai hospital. The pills were sent to Roi Et province