Dubai: A pharmacist is serving a life sentence for selling a bottle of controlled medicine for Dh100, a judicial official told Gulf News.

The Indian pharmacist, identified as A.Sh. is in his mid-40s and had been working for a private hospital in Dubai. He is undergoing his punishment at Dubai Central Jail after being convicted by a court of selling a bottle of Actifed Compound Linctus for Dh100.

A.Sh. told Gulf News that he had been working as pharmacist for a private hospital in Dubai for nearly seven years and had never sold any medicine without prescriptions.

"An Emirati HIV patient identified as Khalid used to come to our hospital for treatment and doctors prescribed for him Actifed Compound Linctus," he said.

A.Sh. recalled the day when he was arrested saying that Khalid came to the hospital pharmacy asking for the medicine.

"I gave him one bottle only but the patient got angry with me and told me that the doctor prescribed for him two bottles and if I did not give him another one he will put me in trouble because he [Khalid] told me that he works for high-profile people," he said.

There was only one bottle of Actifed Compound Linctus in the pharmacy when Khalid made his threat but A.Sh. who has been taking the same medicine for health problems of his own — albeit with a prescription from a doctor at the same hospital — agreed to part with one he had kept for himself. "I gave him my medicine and without asking him for money, he gave me Dh100 saying it was a tip," he said.

Suddenly, police appeared and arrested him, A.Sh. said.

A father of four, A.Sh. has been in jail for the past four years and says he is still the only breadwinner for his family.

"I learnt tailoring in jail and I earn Dh100 to Dh200 per month from my work which I send to my family back in India," he said.

A.Sh., who is a university graduate, said he regrets his mistake of giving his own medicine to the patient.

"I admit my mistake and fault, but Khalid, the patient, terrified me. I was afraid of Khalid because he threatened to deport me from the country after having me put in jail if I did not give him another bottle of Actifed Compound Linctus," he recalls.

Tip-off led to arrest

Actifed Compound Linctus contains codeine, which is a controlled substance classified as a drug, police said.

Selling or possessing or consuming codeine without a doctor's prescription is punishable according to the anti-drug law's Article No.1 for 2005.

Police said the pharmacist was arrested after they were tipped off that he was about to make a sale of a bottle of Actifed Compound Linctus for Dh100.

"We arrested the man when he gave the bottle of medicine to our informer," a police officer said.

Do you know the difference between controlled and over-the-counter medicines? Do you know of pharmacists selling controlled drugs without prescriptions? Are you aware of anyone who managed to buy controlled drugs without a prescription?