The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Monday registered cases against three pharmaceutical laboratories and arrested their owners for manufacturing substandard drugs that are alleged to have claimed 25 lives.
FIA’s Punjab chapter swung into action on the orders of Interior Minister Rehman Malik and registered cases against three firms – Alfalah Pharma, Mega Pharmaceuticals and Pharmawise Laboratories – on the complaints of federal drug inspectors.
The cases were registered at the FIA Anti-Corruption Circle police station in Lahore under section 23/27 of the Drugs Act.
During their visits, the drug inspectors alleged that these firms were not following prescribed rules and regulations and drugs were manufactured in unhygienic conditions.
In a parallel move, the FIA launched a probe into the death of 25 patients at the Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC) allegedly due to the adverse reaction of some of the spurious medicines manufactured at these pharmaceutical companies.
In this connection, Punjab FIA Director Waqar Haider convened a meeting with the federal drug inspector and other FIA officials in attendance.
A letter of the National Crisis Management Cell, which the ministry of interior has issued, reads: “The competent authority is pleased to constitute a JIT to conduct investigations into the loss of precious lives in Lahore due to spurious drugs supplied by PIC. The JIT will comprise officials of FIA and federal health department. The FIA director will be the convener while the federal drug inspector will be its member.”
Under the terms of reference, the JIT is to identify the exact number of deaths caused by the use of substandard drugs, their origin (whether imported or produced locally), and to sketch a complete history of the manufacturers. The probe team is to submit its report within three days to the ministry.
The JIT visited the PIC, examined the medicine, records and recorded statements of the institute’s officials as well as relatives of the victims.
In a related development, a district and sessions court on Monday put the SHO of Shadman police station on notice in a petition seeking registration of a case against the PIC staff for purchasing substandard medicines.
Additional District and Sessions Judge Arif Hameed Shaikh directed the SHO to submit a reply by 27 of this month. The petitioner, Ahmed Raza, seeks the registration of an FIR against PIC’s medical superintendent and provincial health secretary for their alleged involvement in the purchase of medicines which were later given to patients for free. The petitioner contended that on January 21 he approached the Shadman police to lodge a case against the accused but the SHO refused.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 24th, 2012.