LAHORE: The preliminary report of a high-powered 10-member committee, constituted to investigate the injection fiasco, identified possibilities of either contamination during re-filling/transportation or the drug itself.
After investigating the entire chain of events, the investigating committee ruled out every other possibility that may have caused eye infection that risked loss of eyesight among the recipients of the medicine. However, the exact reason of drug reaction will be ascertained in the drug analysis report of Drug Testing Laboratory, Lahore, which is expected to be submitted in the next 10 to 15 days.
The number of affected patients has reached 80 after more victims of drug scandal have come forth and data has also been uploaded on the portal/dashboard established for this purpose.
Talking to The News, Punjab’s caretaker Minister for Primary and Secondary Healthcare Department Dr. Jamal Nasir confirmed the findings of the committee’s preliminary report, saying that the use of specific lot of this drug has been temporarily banned until the DTL releases its findings about the actual cause of contamination within the next couple of weeks.
“The other remaining batches of medicine, except this specific lot of injection, will remain available for the cancer patients, while there is no emergency for diabetic patients,” he said.
The Punjab government has arrested two accused on charges of their involvement in illegal re-filling and supply of the medicine to other districts of Punjab. The accused, Bilal Rasheed and Asim Khalid of the local pharmaceutical company, have been arrested from Arifwala and Faisalabad respectively.
Raids are also being conducted to apprehend third accused, Anwar, from Multan, while a fourth alleged accomplice, Naveed, has been put on Exit-Control List (ECL). The cases have been registered against the accused under various sections of the Drug Act, 1976. The company has been sealed and material seized. Notice has also been issued to a private hospital in Lahore where the refilling took place.
The sources told The News that the tainted Avastin injection was being supplied from Lahore to other districts including Multan, Rahim Yar Khan and Sadiqabad via courier services of passenger bus companies and bike ride apps.
If original product is found non-contaminated, he said the entire responsibility of this unfortunate incident will lie on the accused for unsafe refilling and transportation and they will be strictly punished.
The sources in Punjab’s drug control authority told The News that the eye surgeons in other districts used to place order to the company of up to 25 injections at a price of Rs1,500 each, which was administered to patients at Rs50,000 apiece. The investigation teams are yet to apprehend eye surgeons involved in the heinous crime.
The minister further informed that as many as 20 patients were under treatment at the Mayo Hospital, Lahore, requiring minor surgeries, treatment for infection or mere cleaning of their eyes. “Three patients from Jhang were treated in Nishtar Hospital, Multan, who have been discharged after recovery,” he said, adding that the remaining patients have either recovered or getting treatment privately.