At a time when Covid-19 is at its peak in Punjab, the supply to hospitals of an injection used to treat patients having serious breathing difficulties has reportedly stopped, forcing them to purchase it from the market at exorbitant prices of over Rs500,000.
According to sources in the provincial health department, the Actemra injection, which is very important to stabilise the breathing system of serious coronavirus patients, is currently not available in big hospitals.
The sources said the patients, especially those on ventilator support, are suffering due to the non-availability of the injection at hospitals.
Thousands of Covid-19 patients are being treated in Punjab's hospitals. Although the injection is not available in the hospitals, it is being offered in the black market and resourceful people are buying it for huge amounts.
The shortage suspected to have been created by a mafia is creating more problems for the needy patients admitted to the government hospitals for oxygen and ventilator support due to coronavirus.
"A cabinet committee was due to discuss purchase of the injections but its meeting was not held on Monday. The committee is likely to recommend purchase of the injections and the issue will be settled after that,” provincial health department spokesman Sayed Hamad Raza told The Express Tribune.
A senior official of the Drug Regulatory Authority said that Covid-19 patients in serious condition had been arriving at hospitals during the past month and almost all of them were given the injection, resulting in the stock running out.
“We have imported 2,000 injections for all provinces and in the coming week 3,500 more will be imported and made available for the patients under treatment in the hospitals,” the official added. However, an official of the health department alleged that it was because of the negligence of the authorities concerned that the injection costing Rs120,000 was being sold for over Rs500,000. “The injection is not available in the hospitals but the doctors serving in coronavi- rus wards are recommending it, forcing the patients to purchase it at high prices. It was the duty of the health department to ensure the availability of the required medicines in hospitals and at a time when record number of patients and casualties are being reported.”
He said the current phase was crucial in the efforts to curb the pandemic and the intensive care units of hospitals were almost full.
“This mafia responsible for the shortage also fleeced people last year when coronavirus was at its peak during the first wave. At that time some people reportedly purchased the injection for Rs1 million. Now the mafia is active again, while the poor patients are suffering. Only the big private hospitals currently have the injection and they are charging a heavy fee while patients in government facilities are also at the mercy of the profiteers,” he added.
Commenting on the matter, Noor Mahar, president of the Drug Lawyers Forum, said the mafia was earning millions of rupees through black marketing of the injection. “The question remains what the government is doing to cope with the situation,” he added.