Over 120 people have been killed by Tuesday while over 400 othersare being treated in various hospitals of eastern Pakistani city ofLahore following the consumption of substandard heart drugs on theprescription of cardiologists. Doctors of a state-run hospital, Pakistan Institute of Cardiology(P.I.C.), prescribed a combination of four medicine available freeof cost from the hospital's pharmacy to over 40,000 heart patientscoming from Lahore and its adjacent areas. The first case of reaction of drug came forward on Jan. 9, and upto now over 400 patients has been registered. |
In a press briefing earlier last week, health minister of Punjabprovince said that all the patients belong to low-income group whoget free drugs from pharmacy of the state-run hospital ofcardiology every month, but the batch of medicine which wasdelivered to the hospital's pharmacy in December last year wassubstandard. Talking to Xinhua, Dr. Jafar Salar, a doctor with PakistanInstitute of Cardiology said that in the beginning doctors couldnot understand the nature of the strange disease, they misjudged itas Dengue and suggested their patients to continue the drugs, butwhen a lot of heart patients sharing the same symptoms wereadmitted into the hospital, the doctors realized the real nature ofdisease. "The patients' drug reactions were marked by rapid depletion ofbone marrow, white blood cells and platelets which resulted invomiting blood and acute lethargy," Salar told Xinhua. According to initial investigations by a team of doctors formed byChief Minister of Punjab Shahbaz Sharif to probe the incident ofsuspected drugs reaction, one of the medicines had spots on it andthe hospital distributed it to its cardiac patients without gettingit analyzed from the Drug testing Laboratory.
The samples of the contaminated medicines have been sent toSingapore, Brussels and France for tests, as there is not anylaboratory in Pakistan that could carry out relevant tests on thecontaminated medicines. The victims of drug reaction said that the medicine might beoutdated because expiry date was not mentioned on the medicinewhich they got from the hospital's pharmacy. Talking to Xinhua, Sajid Butt, attendant of an affected patientsaid that apart from Pharmaceutical companies, the hospitaladministration is also partially responsible for the great numberof deaths as they accepted the drugs from the pharmacists withoutchecking their expiration date. The chief minister suspended the medical superintendent and chiefpharmacist of P.I.C. on the charges not examining the medicineproperly and accepting possibly expired medicine.
On the directives of Interior Minister Rehman Malik, aninvestigative team from Federal Investigation Authority (F.I.A)launched a crackdown against the suspected pharmaceuticalcompanies, during their visits, the drug inspectors alleged thatthese firms were not following prescribed rules and regulations anddrugs were manufactured in unhygienic conditions. However, the owners of pharmaceutical companies have rejected theallegations and said that the medicines were approved by the drugtesting laboratory and overdose or the wrong prescription of heartdrugs by the doctors is real reason of the killing of a largenumber of people. The F.I.A. has also held the medical superintendent of PakistanInstitute of Cardiology on Monday for investigations. This is not the only incidence of the use of sub-standard drugs inPakistan, every year hundreds of people lose their life because ofthe consumption of sub-standard drugs but authorities do not payattention to the issue mainly because of the negligence of healthsector.
For the present fiscal year 2011-2012, Government of Punjab haveallocated a total of about 53 million U.S. dollars for a populationof over 81 million indicating that the provincial government wouldspend less than one dollar on every individual from July 1, 2011 toJune 30, 2012. According to Head of Allama Iqbal Medical College Prof Dr JavedAkram, the health sector is badly neglected by the government sothat the administration of public sector hospitals have to buydrugs on relatively cheaper price due to limited budget whichsometimes result in drug reaction like the present incident. The business of spurious drugs is flourishing in the country withevery coming day and many high priced drugs are available on verycheap rates in local markets. In the past, government had arrested some pharmacists formanufacturing substandard drugs but due to loopholes in the systemnone of them got any notable sentence from the drug courts whichencouraged such elements and substandard drugs swarm in the market.
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