Punjab launches rigorous crackdown as vision loss cases escalate

DRAP officials say no hospital, laboratory, or pharmacy in Pakistan has a license to repack the injection

By M Waqar Bhatti & Ummay Farwa
September 25, 2023
A doctor tests a patient at an eye clinic. — APP

LAHORE/ISLAMABAD:In response to escalating cases of vision impairment due to substandard injections in Punjab, the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) Monday initiated a rigorous crackdown against pharmaceutical distributors.

Initially, it was reported that more than 40 diabetes patients in the province suffered vision-related issues, prompting the provincial caretaker government to impose a two-week ban on the sale and use of Avastin for ophthalmological treatments.


However, the tally has since increased to over 70 affected patients. Subsequent to these reports, DRAP issued a nationwide ban on the use of these injections for hospitals, pharmacies, and patients alike.

The DRAP officials said that no hospital, laboratory, or pharmacy in Pakistan has a license to repack the injection. They revealed that both unregistered and registered injections are available in the market.

The officials further advised the people and hospitals to not use the imported injections before quality check results were obtained.

Earlier today, DRAP and the provincial drug authorities raided the offices of medicine distributors and recovered 110 vials from there which were sent to a drug testing laboratory in Lahore.

As per recent details, out of 70, 10 patients belonged to Multan, one in Bahawalpur, three in Jhang who are under treatment in Nishtar Hospital, while cases have also been reported in Lahore, Multan, Rahim Yar Khan, Sadiqabad, and Faisalabad.

The police are in search of two suspects identified as Bilal and Naveed.

In a notification issued by the interim Punjab government, 11 drug inspectors have been arrested for the sale of injections bought from illegal unregistered companies.

Three drug inspectors from Lahore, two from Bahawalpur and Rahim Yar Khan, and one from Jhang, Sadiqabad, Kasur, Bahawalnagar and Khanewal have been suspended, said the notification.

A day earlier, the Punjab government imposed a two-week ban on Avastin’s sales and usage for ophthalmology-related treatments.

Punjab caretaker Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi also announced free medical treatment to the patients affected by the substandard eye injections.

He vowed that immediate strict action would be taken against drug inspectors responsible for the availability of non-sterile injections with a pending inquiry. The CM said that the government would form a high-powered inquiry team for swift investigation.

Police were instructed to ensure the arrests of those found responsible for the incidents.