Free medicine: With 73 dead, manufacturer blames doctors

Published: January 24, 2012
At least 62 people have died after reacting to a free medicine from the Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC).

At least 62 people have died after reacting to a free medicine from the Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC).

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.


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Reader Comments (21)

  • Irtiza
    Jan 24, 2012 - 4:50PM

    Start of another blame game and very soon we all will forget about this tragedy.


  • A Ali
    Jan 24, 2012 - 4:50PM

    That’s the problem of my country no one is ready to take the responsibility.


  • BS.Detecter
    Jan 24, 2012 - 4:56PM

    Manufacturers do have a point but lets not exclude them yet of any responsibility.

    Both The doctors and manufacturers should be tried and punished for negligence and involuntary manslaughter


  • Junaid
    Jan 24, 2012 - 5:07PM

    ofcourse manufacturers has thepoint why it has been reported in onyl one hospital.


  • Much Amused
    Jan 24, 2012 - 5:12PM

    The medicines can be checked by independent labs abroad. What stops Punjab government from doing so? or is it some vested interest at work?


  • Citizen of Pakistan
    Jan 24, 2012 - 5:17PM

    I actually don’t know who to be blamed,doctors or manufacturer, but seriously this have to be the most awful thing I have ever heard !! Both the, doctors and manufacturers, are well educated people and I don’t think any of them could afford to do such a mistake!! If there is something wrong with the medicines(in manufacturing or in prescription) I think both of them are to be blamed!


  • Dr.shoaib
    Jan 24, 2012 - 5:36PM

    Practically it should have been same punishment either someone is killed with with pistol or fake medicines and punishment is same from islam,religion and human rights point of view.Such cases regularly occur on small number on daily basis all over pakistan but no one come to know as death blame is put on disease for which he is taking medicines as there is no proper system in hospitals to find cause of death is either due to disease or fake medicines. Most dead bodies are buried without bringing dead bodies to hospital as relative thinks they died due to disease rather than medicines.Many pakistani do not know that their kidney or liver disease are due to drugs taken few years ago.My relative was chemist in peshawar and he used to say what happen in pharma companies and he left the job to become lecturer.Most of hepatitis B and C medicines fail to clear diseases except few lucky whose virus load is less.There should be very strict and very severe punishment system for distributing death in the form of fake medicine as especially people diagnosing with kidney diseases who spend million on dialysis.


  • Alina Sheikh
    Jan 24, 2012 - 9:45PM

    God save this country. No one can be trusted here, everyone is corrupt including Doctors and Drug Manufacturers. Wonder how many people have died due to the negligence of our doctors. Wont be surprised if the figures are in 5 digits!


  • Jan 24, 2012 - 10:03PM

    Shahbaz Shreef is directly responsible for this poor incident, WORST FORM OF CORRUPTION, SS did nothing in last 4 years of his Gov.. but gave emotional speeches and press releases


  • Syme
    Jan 24, 2012 - 10:21PM

    Cases are reported from one hospital only because PIC( Punjab Institute of Cardiology) is a specialized cardiac center. PIC cater both medical and surgical services to the patients. The said companies are the sole supplier of statin and platelet inhibitors ( the type of druds used to treat the heart disesaes) in PIC.
    Dengue is common in mild seasons and are strongly associated with mosquites, Its unlikely to misdiagnose dengue. Feaver and body aches yell loud enough for the deaf doctors:)Recommend

  • Shoaib
    Jan 24, 2012 - 11:12PM

    To ET: Tell the people the name of the medicines so that they can avoid taking them.


  • Akthar
    Jan 24, 2012 - 11:15PM

    “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.”

    Global Conspiracy,here too? Conspiracy theories runs in every Paki`s blood.. This is heights.. How`s it propaganda when deaths have happened? Ostriches, we are..Recommend

  • Tur Tur
    Jan 24, 2012 - 11:56PM

    True that we are not entirely sure of the reason behind this sad incident but let’s not jump to the conclusions just yet. Considering how the Outpatient departments work in a hospital, I would highly doubt the manufacturer’s claim though. There are several doctors working at all time so for a malpractice to have killed this many people, you’d have to think that almost all of them were negligent or on the other hand, it could just be because of those spurious drugs which were prescribed and happened to have caused the extremely low platelets.
    As for the “Statins”(Drugs in question), contrary to manufacturer claims, they are not strictly “blood thinners” but instead, they lower the blood cholestrol levels and have a beneficial anti-platelet effect.
    Reference:PubMed Research Based Evidence


  • Majid
    Jan 25, 2012 - 1:41AM

    I wonder if Rehman Malik could show the same promptness on terrorist attacks in varions places in Pakistan!Recommend

  • Grace
    Jan 25, 2012 - 3:19AM

    @Colonel: If the physicians or the manufacturers are responsible for poor practices, they should be charged and an effective method put in place to prevent such tragedies in the future. You seem to more interested in trying to pin this on the provincial government which shows you have a misguided agenda. I do not hold Shahbaz Sharif resonsible for this crime but he is doing what I expect him to do. He is following up with an inquiry to ensure it doesn’t happen again. This is what the US government does when a medicine is found to be killing patients.


  • Amjad
    Jan 25, 2012 - 6:10AM

    @Colonel: Since a good number of the medicines were manufactured in Karachi, does that mean the Chief Minister of Karachi is also guilty? I can’t understand what you stand to gain for playing politics when there is a tragedy that needs a proper inquiry. We all know that the Chief Minister has no direct role in this incident but he will expose the truth and fix things. That’s why Shahbaz Sharif has the support of the majority in Punjab. Whether substandard drug company products, derelict doctors or sloppy bureaucrats, this incident needs to be investigated, charges laid and a future repetition of such an occurrence prevented.


  • Hasan Mehmood
    Jan 25, 2012 - 9:47AM

    It pains my heart that faced with such a trajedy some of us can use it for political point scoring
    and for GOD’s sake spare us conspiracy theories.


  • Sajjad Hussain
    Jan 26, 2012 - 3:42PM

    Disgusting.. Drug manufacturers and government officials are responsible for deaths of these poor heart patients.It has discredited the local pharma industry especially those based at Lahore.Neither am I going to buy nor prescribed medicines manufactured by local pharma industry until and unless things improve.We can’t play with the lives of patients.


  • Jan 29, 2012 - 1:54PM

    It is a fact that there are no Good Prescribing practices and Good Purchase policies in pakistan,there is no Drug Regulatorytry authority,no federal Ministry health,no provincial minister of health looking exclusively after the health affairs of the province. Inside Lohari gate,there is a huge market of fake drugs,number two they are called,and those are used at all private,NGO run,Charities run,and government free medicare institutions,and the reason is simple,the consumers of these medicines dont belong to the elite classes,who can purchase medicines from multi-chain pharmacies or even from abroad,hence there has been no need ever felt to regulate and inspect them. The pharmacists are throwing blame on prescriber doctors,the doctors on manufacturers,and the government on both,while all three actually share the responsibility,The PIC administration has been purchasing medicine having the lowest price,whose policy is this,their own or issued by the government ? They purchased from one company whose licence has long been not renewed,whose responsibility was there ? This scam started in early january,and when did they started advertising in newspapers about these killer drugs,when did they started anouncing ,when did they collected drugs back from recepients,when already the death toll was in double figures,their own drug testing lab cleared these drugs,do they care to tell people,what were the tests carlried out,to declare these drugs safe,yesterday a new leak revealed a donation of WHO ,a batch of near expiry drugs,potentially responsible for these killings,and an allegation that doctors prescribed 160 mg of that drug,while the maximum dosage should not have been 40 mg,why would doctors do that ? That remains unanswered, the tablets under question have developed brown spots upon them,whether they are because of fungus(improper storage implying thus),or chemical contamination ? What was the reason behind the governments suspicion that the drugs contained mercury,lead and arsenic-if that is true,how can manufacturers be absolved,there was a news ,and that is a fact,that many people are importing not the raw material,but manufactured open drugs, from abroad,and are just packing them here,how can quality assurance be maintained,if it is not a proper lab,where such manufacturing is being done. Who has allowed them to do so,how can they win quotations in private and public institutions ? The crux of the matter remains-becase the consumers were the lowest of lowest sections of the society,huge public funds were spent on procuring killer medicines for them,and if one tries to probe every hspital related death in the past,many such scams will be revealed,to which the innocent people had always been ascribing destinies decree,actually many many of them may turn out to be homicidal ,but who is going to listen here,its a muk-muka culture and in presence of this whole system of exploitation,profit oriented society,people will keep on dying,either at the hands of doctors,or corrupt administrations,or profit seeking manufacturers and their marketeeers.


  • Imran Ahmed
    Jan 31, 2012 - 1:25AM

    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.


  • Imran Ahmed
    Jan 31, 2012 - 1:31AM

    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.


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