So far, 23 people have died after reacting to a free medicine from the Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC). The worst may still not be over – and panic will take some time to subside, as it has emerged that 400-500 patients were given the same medicine at the hospital.
The disease, medical officials told The Express Tribune, is still undiagnosed, and 100 people are currently undergoing treatment in hospitals across the city. The symptoms of the disease include a change in complexion, low platelet count, vomiting blood and a severe chest infection.
Muhammad Jehanzeb Khan, Punjab’s secretary of health, on Saturday also formed a committee to probe the fiasco. Headed by the principal of Allama Iqbal Medical College and Jinnah Hospital, Professor Javed Akram, the committee is made up of doctors and health experts from Lahore.
Dr Akram confirmed to The Express Tribune that there had been 23 casualties so far. He said that samples of the medicine had been sent to laboratories in and outside the country to ascertain what had gone wrong.
“We fear that the medicine is contaminated with some heavy metal which gets deposited in the bone marrow and ultimately ends the body’s resistance. The generation of white blood cells stops in the body and a severe chest infection also takes place,” he explained.
Dr Akram added that the medicine had been bought by the PIC in December. He said that it was being recalled and its further distribution had been stopped.
“There are four medicines of which any one could have caused this reaction. We are working on it,” he added.
Arrangements have also been made to analyse other cardiac medicines used by the PIC. Dr Akram said that a centralised data collection centre has been established to compile data on patients from all hospitals in the city.
He added that plans have been made to provide alternative medicines to PIC patients.
A helpline has been set up. The number is 042-9920-0688 When asked when the committee would present its findings, Dr Akram replied: “We will give our report in 48 hours. We hope that the patients who have used this medicine remain safe. We are trying our best.”
Published in The Express Tribune, January 22nd, 2012.