7m pseudoephedrine pills unaccounted for at Thai hospital

BANGKOK - More than seven million pseudoephedrine-containing tablets, one of which can reportedly make three amphetamine pills, have gone missing over the past three years from an Udon Thani hospital that is currently under investigation, a senior resident pharmacist said yesterday.

The missing tablets were worth more than Bt19 million (S$777,450), which was allegedly pocketed by Somchai saeKhow, a senior pharmacist, chief pharmacist Damrongkiat Tangjaroen reportedly told police during an interview. Somchai is on the run and wanted by police.

The Department of Special Investigation (DSI), which has taken over pseudoephedrine cases at many hospitals from police, has dispatched agents to many hospitals in the Central region, the Northeast and the North to conduct initial inspections and compile evidence and relevant documents.

An investigation at San Sai Hospital in Chiang Mai would determine in the next two days how many pseudoephedrine containing tablets were missing and who would be held responsible.

The number of pseudoephedrine-containing tablets ordered from the Food and Drug Admnistration is much higher than what was found in the hospital's inventory, said Surasing Wissarutrat, head of the provincial public health office.

At Kamalasai Hospital in Kalasin, more than 350,000 pseudoephedrine-containing tablets were found to be missing from its inventory. Seven staffers, including the hospital director, have been questioned extensively.

All hospitals suspected of involvement in the pseudoephedrine cases are staterun, but a private hospital in eastern Bangkok has been identified as possibly being involved.

A police source claimed to have found a connection between one of the seven staffers and pharmacists at private hospitals. The DSI is also looking into the connection and possible wrongdoing at other private hospitals, the source said.