A Sydney pharmacist who was jailed for illegally supplying thousands of Gardasil vaccines to Hong Kong will serve the rest of her sentence through community service
Sydney pharmacist Kathy Gong has had her appeal upheld in Downing Centre District Court, seeing her sentence reduced from eight months’ jail time to 40 hours of community service.
Ms Gong, who is the sole proprietor of Harmony Pharmacy and Wellness Clinic in Mosman, was sentenced to prison in November after pleading guilty to three counts of prohibition on wholesale supply of certain substances.
According to court documents, Ms Gong had supplied 2,432 Gardasil 9 vaccine injections via her company to a man who became her co-accused, between April 2018 and June 2018.
Neither Ms Gong nor her business hold a licence under the Poisons and Therapeutic Goods legislation to engage in the wholesale supply of scheduled goods.
After receiving the injections from Ms Gong, the man had then sent them on to a contact in Hong Kong.
The Gardasil 9 injections had been exported under false declarations, purported to be Anthogenol capsules.
Both Ms Gong and her co-accused were unaware that investigators were watching their movements, and that several of the boxes had been intercepted by Australian Border Force officers.
During a search of the Harmony Pharmacy and Wellness Clinic, investigators located invoices from Ms Gong’s business to her co-accused’s business for supply of Anthogenol capsules.
In a conversation found on Ms Gong’s seized phone, a contact investigators believed to be her co-accused messaged her about needing Gardasil 9.
On 24 April 2018 he messaged: “Dear Katherine just wanna make sure that ordering that much amount is not gonna causing (sic) any issue,” he asked.
“If you need me provide u any prescription from hk let me know” he added.
Ms Gong replied: “No it won’t cause issue” and “we have agreement with supplier”.
The man messaged again: “Also is it better to invoice me under different product name?”
He added: “like some make up product”.
Ms Gong replied: “Sure that’s fine”.
On 1 May 2018 the man messaged: “Make sure invoice (sic) me cosmetic”.
Ms Gong replied: “We agree on Anthogenol”.
In August 2018 Ms Gong was served with an order by the NSW Ministry of Health to obtain information into the receipt and supply of Gardasil 9 by her pharmacy.
She replied to this by providing evidence that she had supplied 2,432 Gardasil 9 injections.
The total estimated retail value for the injections in Australia is between $316,160 and $437,760.
Meanwhile the total estimated retail value in Hong Kong is approximately AUD$608,000.
Ms Gong was found to have charged her co-accused an increase of between $25.96 and $31.30 in price per unit, indicating a profit of between $63,134.72 and $76,121.60, according to the court documents.
However Ms Gong admitted through her solicitor that she had made a profit of about $30,000, as she had shared this profit with another pharmacist who had supplied her the injections.
Ms Gong told the court she paid the other pharmacist between $11 and $16 per injection.
Court documents state that: “The 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 to a nationwide shortage of the vaccine in Australia.”
After seven days in Silverwater Women’s Correctional Centre Ms Gong was released on bail and appealed her sentence.
Her appeal was successful in mid-April, and she will now serve the rest of her sentence by way of intensive correction through community service work.
Ms Gong has had her pharmacist registration suspended since she was charged in October, when investigators referred her to AHPRA.
Kathy Gong was approached by AJP but declined to comment.