Free medicine: With 73 dead, manufacturer blames doctors

Owner of pharmaceutical company, arrested earlier, says medicine reaction case of mismanagement.

LAHORE: One of the owners of the pharmaceutical companies, against whom cases were registered for manufacturing substandard drugs in light of the deaths as a result of a 'mystery' disease, has said that the case was a result of mismanagement as the issue had come up at one hospital only.

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had registered cases against three pharmaceutical laboratories and arrested their owners for manufacturing substandard drugs. FIA’s Punjab chapter swung into action on the orders of Interior Minister Rehman Malik and registered cases against three firms – Alfalah Pharma (Pvt) Limited, Mega Pharmaceuticals (Pvt) Limited and Pharmawise Laboratories (Pvt) Limited – on the complaints of federal drug inspectors.

The owner, while speaking to the media, said his company had been supplying the medicine to a number of hospitals and that it had been ‘ill-prescribed’ in this case. He said that a dengue patient already has low blood platelet count and the doctors should make sure that they check the patient’s history before administering the medicines.

Answering a question if this was all a conspiracy, he said that there was a possibility that this was propaganda from multinational companies to suppress the local industry.

He said he accused the doctors, staff at PIC and those prescribing the medicines for the entire episode.

Another owner said that the booklet inside the medicine box clearly stated that the medicine was used for blood-thinning and that it was up to the doctor to decide the intake.

Death toll rises

At least 73 people have died after reacting to a free medicine from the Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC), Express News reported on Tuesday. The government of Punjab has claimed that only 28 have died of the reaction so far.

More than 300 patients are reported to be under treatment at different hospitals in Lahore, out of which 226 patients are at the Services Hospital.

Official response

Confusion abounds in official circles on the death toll.

Principal of the Services Institute of Medical Sciences (SIMS), which is affiliated with the Services Hospital, said at a press conference that 36 people had died. In the same conference, the health secretary put the toll at 27.

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif also visited Jinnah Hospital and told reporters that he will take ‘stern action’ against those responsible for the incident. He said an investigation was being carried out and culprits will be brought to task soon but did not give a timeframe.

The CM also ordered the demotion of Services Hospital’s medical superintendent to an officer on special duty.

Compensation worth Rs0.5 million for the victims, while Rs0.2 million for the under-treatment victims, was announced by Shahbaz Sharif on this occasion.



Imran Ahmed | 9 years ago | Reply

The larger unexplained scam is the sheer number of Private Pharmaceutic companies that get licences to manufacture the same drug which is at times being sold under scores of different names. Only Generic prescription must be encouraged and at the most two or three private companies should be licensed to manufacture the same product. Otherwise bribes and sharp practices are encouraged, not to mention the dangerous confusion for patients, nurses, doctors and dispensers.

Imran Ahmed | 9 years ago | Reply

We have a Drugs Controller. No accountability. No ombudsman with mandamus and suo moto who can pry into administrative shortcomings. No Chief Medical Officer who has the authority to over ride provincial and departmental regulations to improve oversight and co-ordination. Sacrificing scape goats instead of remedying institutional shortcomings will never solve anything but this is the only strategy employed by our CM.

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