Monday March 04, 2024

Spurious eye drug victims’ number rises to 68

By Amer Malik & News Desk
September 26, 2023

LAHORE: The number of patients affected by spurious eye drug rose to 68 on Monday, who are feared to be in danger of losing their eyesight.

A fake drug was administered to the eye patients, which severely affected their eyesight, in various districts of Punjab. Province’s drug control authorities allegedly overlooked the necessary approvals to authorise use the medicine for specific purpose.

The Drug Regulatory Authority Pakistan (DRAP) officials, along with the Punjab drug control authorities, raided the warehouse of the distributor of the injection in Lahore and recovered at least 110 vials. The DRAP officials stopped the distributor from selling the injection and sent its samples to the Drug Testing Laboratory (DTL), Lahore, to examine the quality and safety of drug, which will submit its report in two weeks.

The Primary and Secondary Health Department (P&SHD) authorities claimed launching a crackdown on the use of the drug, though it is yet to hold those responsible accountable for dispensing, administering and facilitating the injection. However, the department suspended a drug controller, a deputy drug controller and 12 drug inspectors over their alleged negligence in the spurious drug case. These officials were posted in Lahore, Bahawalpur, Multan, Jhang, Kasur, Khanewal and Rahim Yar Khan.

Noor Mahar, a pharmacist and drug lawyer, criticised DRAP and Punjab’s drug control authorities for defaming a multinational pharmaceutical company for being manufacturer/importer of the injection, alleging that the Drug Regulatory Authority was actually trying to cover up a local company which sold a counterfeit version of the drug. He also criticised DRAP for banning the drug altogether, terming it a grave injustice to patients.

He criticised the drug authorities for allegedly implicating Shaukat Khanum Hospital in fake drug case. Noor, who is also president of Pakistan Pharmacists Legal Forum (PPLF), alleged that a local pharmaceutical company was responsible for dispensing 0.5ml injection for preventing blindness among diabetic patients, whereas the drug was meant to treat the cancer patients.

He said the use of Avastin injection caused blindness among several patients, who were treated for eye disease in the United States in 2011, while many patients also lost eyesight in India due to treatment of eye disease with the same drug, which is meant to treat bowel cancer patients.

He called for holding doctors responsible, who dispensed a fake drug instead of ensuring the use of genuine medicine from the original manufacturing/ importing company. “It is a clear violation of the Drugs Act 1976 to manufacture injectables without a manufacturing licence,” he claimed.

DRAP authorities, however, rejected his allegations. Caretaker Provincial Minister for Primary and Secondary Health Department (P&SHD) Dr. Jamal Nasir visited an affected patient, Shabir Hussain, the brother of a leader of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chaudhry Manzoor, currently under treatment at Mayo Hospital Lahore. “The affected eye patients will be properly taken care of,” he said.

The minister confirmed that as many as 68 patients had been affected, adding that the drug has been banned in Punjab. He warned of strict action against doctors over unauthorised use of the injection.

Meanwhile, as many as 3,065 people have been affected by conjunctivitis in Lahore so far, out of which 186 patients were affected in the last 24 hours. As many as 49,383 patients have been affected by conjunctivitis across Punjab so far, out of which 1,084 patients have been affected in the last 24 hours.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Sindh Health Department said it would be advisable to temporarily stop the sale/purchase and use of Avastin injection in the province. He said no cases related to Avastin injection had been reported in Sindh so far.

However, the official said the department would take action on certain brands of medicines. The health department directed ophthalmologists of Sindh to be more careful in using eye injections.

Meanwhile, the Punjab Health Department on Monday suspended 11 drug inspectors over negligence in a matter related to the Avastin injection that allegedly caused loss of vision among people.

The eyesight of 40 diabetes patients was affected due to the substandard injection in Lahore. Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Chaudhry Manzoor revealed that his brother and friend’s eyesight was affected when they were administered the injection.

According to Minister for Primary and Secondary Healthcare Punjab Dr Jamal Nasir, 11 drug inspectors of Multan, Sadiqabad, Khanewal and Sahiwal have been suspended. Jamal said the injection supply would be restored by the DRAP after inspection.

A case against the injection suppliers has been registered and a five-member committee to probe the alleged vision loss has been constituted.