She was charged with three counts of prohibition on wholesale supply of certain substances. Picture John Grainger
She was charged with three counts of prohibition on wholesale supply of certain substances. Picture John Grainger

Pharmacist’s life ‘ruined’ by selling cancer vaccines to China

A SYDNEY pharmacist jailed for selling cervical cancer vaccines overseas, contributing to an Australia-wide shortage of lifesaving Gardasil, now says she "should have known better."

Ms Gong has told The Daily Telegraph she should never have taken an opportunity to make $30,000 of dollars selling vials of the Gardasil 9 vaccine she invoiced as a health supplement through an agent to a buyer in Hong Kong.

"My entire career was turned on its head and everything I've worked for was ruined due to a reckless decision that should not have been made," the 35-year-old said.

"I am utterly devastated, I'm not going to lie."

Pharmacist Katherine Gong said she regrets taking the opportunity to make $30,000 by selling vials of the Gardasil 9 vaccine through an agent to a buyer in Hong Kong. Picture: Jonathan Ng
Pharmacist Katherine Gong said she regrets taking the opportunity to make $30,000 by selling vials of the Gardasil 9 vaccine through an agent to a buyer in Hong Kong. Picture: Jonathan Ng

An investigation involving federal and state police and the Department of Home Affairs landed at the door of Ms Gong's Harmony Pharmacy and Wellness Clinic on Military Rd on August 7, 2018.

They searched the business and charged her with three counts of prohibition on wholesale supply of certain substances.

The University of Sydney pharmacy graduate pleaded guilty and Magistrate Jennifer Atkinson jailed her for eight months in Central Local Court on November 28. She appealed the sentence and was released on bail seven days later.

Swapping the leafy lower North Shore for a Silverwater Jail cell devastated Ms Gong.

"To say the least it was a very traumatic experience. It was a pretty ugly experience for me, fortunately it was for a very short time," she said.

 

She was sentenced to eight months jail but appealed the sentence and was released on bail seven days later. Picture John Grainger
She was sentenced to eight months jail but appealed the sentence and was released on bail seven days later. Picture John Grainger

On April 12, the appeal was upheld in the District Court and Ms Gong escaped with 40 hours community service. She said she did not know what she was doing was illegal.

"When I was approached to supply the product Gardasil 9 … my initial preliminary research did not lead to any conclusive licensing requirements," she said. "In hindsight, I should have investigated this further."

"Why would I jeopardise my passion, all that I have worked for and a beautiful pharmacy in Mosman."

She said part of her motivation was "making the vaccine available to women in Hong Kong who might not otherwise get it".

Ms Gong’s actions contributed to the nationwide shortage of lifesaving Gardasil vaccine.
Ms Gong’s actions contributed to the nationwide shortage of lifesaving Gardasil vaccine.

Court documents showed Ms Gong supplied more than 2400 Gardasil 9 injections via her company Kapital K to an exporter, a man who became her co-accused, between March 2017 and May 2018.

In a text conversation found on Ms Gong's phone, the man messaged her on April 24, 2018. "Dear Katherine just wanna make sure that ordering that much amount is not gonna causing (sic) any issues," he asked. She replied "No it won't cause any issue" and "we have agreement with supplier".

Ms Gong invoiced the vaccines as Anthogenol, a health supplement made from grape seed extract, she claims at the request of her co-accused.

The court documents also state: "NSW Ministry of Health are of the belief that Gong's purchase and supply of the Gardasil 9 vaccine for clandestine export is believed to have attributed (sic) to a nationwide shortage of the vaccine in Australia".

Ms Gong is fighting her pharmacist license suspension.



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