The federal government has banned locally manufactured low-cost hepatitis medicine from reaching the market, allegedly on the influence of multinational pharmaceutical firms, a Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) report available with The Express Tribune revealed.
The Ministry of Science and Technology, instead of encouraging microbiologist Dr Sheikh Riazuddin, initiated an inquiry against him through the FIA.
Dr Riazuddin, the former director of the Centre of Excellence in Molecular Biology (CEMB) of the Centre of Applied Molecular Biology (CAMB), had developed the low-cost interferon injection used for curing hepatitis C and proposed to sell it for Rs70 per injection – almost 100% below the prevailing market price.
Undoing its own initiatives
Earlier, the health ministry had not only approved the interferon produced by the CEMB, but also sanctioned funds for the purpose. The product was even validated by German laboratories.
The research work was undertaken six years ago at the CEMB of the CAMB and the Allama Iqbal Medical College (AIMC).
In the phase-I trial, 10 volunteer medical students were injected the drug without any serious adverse effect; however, permission for the clinical trial has been pending with the health ministry for about three years, sources said.
Sources said that Dr Riazuddin obtained a PhD in Biochemistry from Reading University, England. He had produced 70 PhDs and published over 150 research papers in international journals with a cumulative impact factor of over 700 — the highest among biology institutes across the country.
Dr Riazuddin had proposed to sell the products of the research to the general public at throw-away prices. This, however, was obviously not acceptable to the multinational pharmaceutical laboratories and their supporters in the government, as evident from a letter issued to the Ministry of Health secretary from the Ministry of Science and Technology, the report said.
‘No evidence of embezzlement’
The FIA report concludes that there is absolutely no evidence of embezzlement of funds and no evidence of personal use of government funds for personal gains. “Therefore, this report recommends to close the inquiry,” the document read.
The FIA report recommends to initiate a separate enquiry into the loss of 100,000 interferon injections worth of Rs7 million, as well as a loss of raw material relating to interferon worth of Rs1 million.
The FIA investigators stated that the entire batch of interferon has expired.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 14th, 2012.