Psychiatrist struck off for overprescribing to addicts

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Indy Lifestyle Online

A Psychiatrist was struck off the medical register yesterday for prescribing "exceptionally large quantities" of controlled drugs to patients at his private addiction clinic.

In a damning ruling, the General Medical Committee said that Dr Tom Onen had shown a "reckless disregard" for the safety of his patients, two of whom died after receiving prescriptions at his south London surgery.

The GMC had been told that addicts from across the south of England travelled to the clinic to take advantage of the doctor's lax prescription policy. The extent of his over- prescribing meant that junkies were able to sell excess drugs on the streets.

One man was found dead just three days after Dr Onen, aged 52, prescribed him more than twice the lethal limit of the heroin substitute Methadone every day for a month. The man had also been issued with prescriptions for the date-rape drug Rohypnol, Dexedrine and Diazepam.

The second fatality was a woman who died from an overdose of drugs and broncho-pneumonia two days after Dr Onen gave her a prescription for enough Methadone, Dexedrine and Diazepam to last a fortnight.

She was among 120 long-term addicts treated at the clinic by Dr Onen and his colleague Dr Walter Onyango, who was also found guilty of serious professional misconduct after the month-long hearing.

Regarding Dr Onen, the GMC's professional conduct committee said it was seriously concerned by his "irresponsible and inappropriate" prescribing of controlled drugs.

"You were apparently oblivious to and unconcerned about the inherent dangers of overprescribing, both to individual patients and to society as a whole," the committee said.

The ruling added that Dr Onen, who qualified in Uganda in 1976 and who set up the Sunny Medical Centre in Deptford in 1995, should have taken precautions to protect his patients and minimise the "diversion of controlled drugs on to the illicit market".

But even after the police launched an investigation, and the GMC mounted an inquiry, he continued to prescribe drugs irresponsibly.

Given the "extremely serious findings", the panel said that unless Dr Onen exercised his right to appeal, his name would be struck off the register in 28 days.

Dr Onyango, who had worked as a psychiatrist at St Thomas' Hospital in London, was banned from any clinical practice or prescribing drugs outside the National Health Service for two years.

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