A pharmacist who contributed to a national shortage of cervical cancer vaccine by selling the product wholesale overseas says the greedy decision ruined her life.
Katherine Gong was jailed for her role in the sale of the lifesaving Gardasil vaccine from her Harmony Pharmacy and Wellness Clinic in Mosman, on Sydney’s north shore, to a buyer in Hong Kong for $30,000.
‘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 told The Daily Telegraph.
The University of Sydney graduate was initially sentenced to eight months in jail for supplying more than 2,000 vials of Gardisal 9 to a 31-year-old male associate, who then smuggled the drug overseas.
The sentence was later reduced to 40 hours community service. She spent seven ‘traumatic’ nights in jail waiting for her appeal to be heard. ‘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.
Gong maintains she was not aware she was breaking any laws by selling the drug internationally. She said her initial research was inconclusive, but admits she should have spent more time looking in to it.
‘Why would I jeopardise my passion, all that I have worked for and a beautiful pharmacy in Mosman,’ she said. Her decision to ship the product, she said, was partially spurred by her desire to provide more access to women in Hong Kong.
She pleaded guilty to three counts of prohibition on wholesale supply of certain substances. She is now fighting the suspension of her pharmaceutical license.
When Gong was sentenced in November, magistrate Jennifer Atkinson did not accept that her actions were honourable. Gong’s lawyer David Leamey argued that a prison sentence should be a last resort, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
‘It’s not like she’s in the street distributing drugs to vulnerable people, it was to an organisation in Hong Kong… who was going to distribute them to medical centres,’ Mr Leamey said.