— Probe ordered into loss of eyesight in Punjab after administering local injection
— 20 people suffered from blinding infections after taking the injection: Minister
LAHORE: A locally manufactured injection, marketed to treat conjunctivitis but allegedly responsible for causing loss of vision in Punjab, has been recalled from the market and a case has been registered against suppliers, said Interim Health Minister Dr Nadeem Jan on Sunday.
On the orders of caretaker Punjab Minister for Primary and Secondary Healthcare Jamal Nasir, all stocks of spurious injections, manufactured by a pharmaceutical company, have been removed from the province’s pharmacies.
Speaking to the media in Islamabad, flanked by Punjab Minister Dr Jamal Nasir, the minister said that around 20 people had suffered from blinding infections after taking the injection. “The Punjab Health Department has sent a sample of the injection to the lab for testing, and the test report will be available in two to three days.”
Such reports have been received from Multan, Kasur, Lahore and Sadiqabad.
A five-member committee was formed a day prior to assess the situation concerning the spread of this eye infection. It’s primary objectives include submitting a comprehensive report within three days and providing recommendations to prevent similar incidents in the future.
Dr Asad Aslam Khan from King Edward Medical University has been appointed as the committee’s convener. Other members include Director General Drugs Control Muhammad Sohail, Dr Muhammad Moin from Mayo Hospital Lahore, Dr Tayyaba from Lahore General Hospital, and. Dr Mohsin from Services Hospital.
Caretaker Punjab Minister for Primary and Secondary Healthcare, Dr. Jamal Nasir, informed the media that stocks of the infection-causing injection had been withheld and sealed. He also mentioned that drug inspectors across Punjab were mobilized to halt the sale and purchase of the injection.
A directive was issued to all doctors and patients, advising them not to use that specific drug. Medical stores, wholesalers, and distributors were prohibited from selling it, and the drug was sent for laboratory testing.
Concurrently, a case was registered at the Faisal Town Lahore Police Station upon the request of the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP). The case specified that the conjunctivitis treatment injection was manufactured in Faisal Town and prepared in a private hospital laboratory.
Police are currently conducting raids to apprehend the lab owners, Naveed Abdullah, and employee Bilal Rasheed. The FIR indicates that Bilal supplied the fake injections in Kasur, in violation of the DRAP and the Drug Act of 1976 and 2012. The accused were involved in manufacturing and stockpiling unlicensed drugs and selling unregistered injections.
Dr Nasir pointed out that DRAP had immediately halted the distribution of the injection. He lamented, “These individuals were earning one lakh rupees on each injection. Their network extended beyond Lahore and Kasur, reaching Multan and Sadiqabad”.
Following reports that dozens of patients of diabetes had lost their eyesight in Lahore and Kasur, although partially, after they were administered locally manufactured injection Avastin, Punjab’s healthcare minister ordered the removal of the injection from medical stores.
On the other hand, the inquiry committee, headed by Dr. Asad Aslam, will submit its findings within three days.
Earlier, the federal government launched an immediate inquiry into a complaint received from Kasur that the injection, when administered to patients, caused an adverse reaction.
Taking notice of the complaint, Federal Minister for Health Dr. Nadeem Jan contacted Punjab Minister for Health Dr Javed Ikram by telephone and ordered an inquiry.
The latter told the former that the Punjab government had already constituted a five-member committee in this regard.
Jan assured Ikram that the federal government would take all necessary steps to ensure a transparent inquiry into the incident. “We are keeping a close eye on the situation,” the minister said.
According to reports, diabetic patients in Lahore, Kasur, and Jhang districts were administered Avastin injections to address retinal damage. However, these injections led to severe infections, ultimately resulting in the loss of eyesight of approximately 12 patients, including the brother of senior Pakistan People’s Party leader Chaudhry Manzoor and his friend. In Kasur, four individuals also suffered irreversible vision loss.