Dangerous drugs: Vet could face hefty fine

2010-11-17 00:00

A KWAZULU-NATAL veterinary surgeon working in the game capture industry, Dr Sydney Pringle (46), faces the prospect of losing assets worth R70 414 following his recent conviction on multiple counts arising from unlawful sale of highly dangerous veterinary drugs and other contraventions.

Pietermaritzburg Regional Court magistrate S. Mngomezulu will rule on January 25 whether the Asset Forfeiture Unit is entitled to recover this sum, being the total proceeds of the drugs in question.

The forfeiture application was strongly opposed by Pringle’s advocate, Guy Thomas, in court this week.

Pringle has yet to be sentenced for his crimes.

According to the state’s charge sheet, Pringle, who lives in Richmond, was found guilty earlier this year of 50 counts of unlawfully selling unregistered drugs to game capture operators in the province.

The medicines are supposed to be administered under strict veterinary supervision and control. Evidence was led that Pringle had sold the drugs to game capture operators for use without his direct supervision.

Pringle was also found guilty of contravening the Medicine and Related Substances Act (of 1965) for failing to keep a proper Schedule 6 register of the medicines he bought and sold and for failing to keep an accurate prescription book or permanent record of the medicines he sold. He was convicted of a futher 22 counts of keeping unregistered veterinary medicines for sale without package inserts or proper labels containing vital information.

It is believed to be the first successful prosecution of this kind in South Africa.

The drugs that Pringle sold were immobilising drugs which, according to evidence led, are extremely toxic, and some can be fatal in miniscule amounts.

A medicines control officer for the Department of Health, Russell Coote, testified that records had shown that some of the drugs Pringle sold were sent to unqualified buyers by post. In doing so he put the lives of the public — who may have unwittingly come into contact with the drugs — at risk.

He said it was essential that a person handling these drugs had an antidote available as the smallest prick of a finger could be fatal.

Pringle’s conduct also compromised the health and safety of the animals as the drugs would be administered by unqualified people.


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