Tainted drugs: Compensation payments begin as three more die

Pakistan Medical Association calls for better regulation of drug manufacturers.

Our Correspondent January 25, 2012


The Punjab government began handing out compensation cheques to the families of the dead and those dying from tainted drugs handed out for free at the Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC) while three more were added to the death toll on Wednesday.

Cheques of Rs500,000 are being distributed among the heirs of the deceased while each patient who suffered a reaction is to receive Rs200,000. Parliamentary Secretary for Health Dr Saeed Elahi distributed some cheques to under-treatment patients at Jinnah Hospital on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, three more people who had taken the tainted drugs died on Wednesday, taking the  official death toll from the to 72. Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif told reporters later in the evening that close to a hundred people had died.

Committee No 9?

Khawaja Salman Rafiq, the convener of a special committee set up by the chief minister on the matter, told reporters that cases were being registered against the institutions involved in manufacturing the medicines under Section 321 of the Criminal Procedure Code. He said a committee consisting of the home secretary, the Punjab Police inspector general, the prosecutor general and the law secretary was investigating the incident.

That is the eighth committee set up by the Punjab government to probe the situation, but none have revealed their findings. Rafique did not say when the latest committee would finalise its report.

On Thursday, Justice Umar Ata Bandial of the Lahore High Court will conduct a preliminary hearing to consider whether to set up a judicial commission to investigate the deaths. Advocate Muhammad Azhar Siddique filed a petition on Monday stating that such a commission was needed to fix responsibility for the deaths.

‘Improve regulation’

The Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) has urged the Punjab government to establish a drug regulatory authority and upgrade its drug testing laboratory.

“The Punjab government established a Punjab Healthcare Commission in 2010 to regulate, register and monitor private hospitals and clinics, but no such authority has been established to monitor and regulate pharmaceutical companies and factories. There are around 600 non-registered factories producing medicines in Punjab while the companies which have been registered by the federal government are not under the control of the provincial government either. There is no mechanism to ensure a control on the quality and prices of medicine,” said a statement issued by PMA officials on Wednesday.

They also suggested that the government change its policy for the purchase of medicines for government hospitals and buy only those medicines which are also available in multi-chain pharmacies.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 26th, 2012.


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