LAHORE - Two more patients breathed their last on Sunday, as the number of deaths by mysterious reaction to drugs distributed free of cost by Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC) soared to 30. As the Punjab government formed a team of medical experts to investigate the deadly drug, Prof Dr Javed Akram, who is heading the probe, feared that the number of deaths could rise in coming days. Dr Akram confirmed 25 deaths, adding that 50 more patients who had been administered the medicine were in critical condition. Official records show that 110 patients who used the drug reported unexpected reactions and were admitted at various hospitals of the city.
Dr Akram told reporters at a press conference that drug samples had been sent to a laboratory for examination, and the PIC had stopped distributing the medicine immediately. He said the dangerous drug could contain hazardous metals such as arsenic, lead and mercury. He said that health authorities had also asked the pharmaceutical companies to provide the record of medicines purchased by the PIC in December. He said the enquiry report would be released on Monday (today). Dr Akram said that almost 25,000 patients had used similar medicines, but only a specific batch had caused fatal reactions. He said the deaths were occurring due to a sudden drop in platelets and white blood cells, along with bone marrow damage. Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif constituted a nine-member committee headed by CM’s Inspection Team Chairman Najam Saeed to enquire into the death wave caused by faulty drugs.
A Punjab government spokesman said the chief minister would personally monitor the probe, while the committee was given two days to complete the enquiry and submit its findings.
Senior Federal Minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi criticised the CM and held him responsible for the deaths caused by the distribution of substandard medicines. “It is another proof of Shahbaz Sharif’s incompetence after the dengue epidemic, as no timely action was taken to save precious lives,” Elahi said.