FIA probe: Govt bars low-cost hepatitis vaccine

FIA suggests probe against persons who cancelled research.


Our Correspondent October 14, 2012

LAHORE:


The federal government has banned locally manufactured low-cost hepatitis medicine from reaching the market, allegedly on the influence of multinational pharmaceutical firms, a Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) report available with The Express Tribune revealed.


The Ministry of Science and Technology, instead of encouraging microbiologist Dr Sheikh Riazuddin, initiated an inquiry against him through the FIA.

Dr Riazuddin, the former director of the Centre of Excellence in Molecular Biology (CEMB) of the Centre of Applied Molecular Biology (CAMB), had developed the low-cost interferon injection used for curing hepatitis C and proposed to sell it for Rs70 per injection – almost 100% below the prevailing market price.

Undoing its own initiatives

Earlier, the health ministry had not only approved the interferon produced by the CEMB, but also sanctioned funds for the purpose. The product was even validated by German laboratories.

The research work was undertaken six years ago at the CEMB of the CAMB and the Allama Iqbal Medical College (AIMC).

In the phase-I trial, 10 volunteer medical students were injected the drug without any serious adverse effect; however, permission for the clinical trial has been pending with the health ministry for about three years, sources said.

Dr Riazuddin

Sources said that Dr Riazuddin obtained a PhD in Biochemistry from Reading University, England. He had produced 70 PhDs and published over 150 research papers in international journals with a cumulative impact factor of over 700 — the highest among biology institutes across the country.

Dr Riazuddin had proposed to sell the products of the research to the general public at throw-away prices. This, however, was obviously not acceptable to the multinational pharmaceutical laboratories and their supporters in the government, as evident from a letter issued to the Ministry of Health secretary from the Ministry of Science and Technology, the report said.

‘No evidence of embezzlement’

The FIA report concludes that there is absolutely no evidence of embezzlement of funds and no evidence of personal use of government funds for personal gains. “Therefore, this report recommends to close the inquiry,” the document read.

The FIA report recommends to initiate a separate enquiry into the loss of 100,000 interferon injections worth of Rs7 million, as well as a loss of raw material relating to interferon worth of Rs1 million.

The FIA investigators stated that the entire batch of interferon has expired.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 14th, 2012. 

COMMENTS (23)

Rozina Tufail | 8 years ago | Reply

By looking at the report this is very obvious that interferon produced in CEMB worked very well but because of our bureaucratic usual laziness, they didn’t approve the phase II and phase III trials on time, while phase I trial, on ten medical students was successful. No scientist affords to wait for years and years to publish his invention and success story especially if it is in the benefit of public. This is not 1st time that CEMB has doing something in favor of masses to serve the humanity. CEMB/CAMB has set an example for our other institutions to follow it. Many other institutions are using public funding and not benefitting the public any ways. No research is useful if it is not benefitting the public while all institutional researches are funded by the tax money of public. In this particular case it is equally important to know why someone cancelled the research than just, who cancelled it; to know the situation behind the scene. As reported “Earlier, the health ministry had not only approved the interferon produced by the CEMB, but also sanctioned funds for the purpose. The product was even validated by German laboratories.” The biggest dilemma of our country is we don’t keep our eye on goals. We don’t want to acknowledge and appreciate the other people success, if we are not part of it. Multinational national companies must be earning millions of dollars and Pakistan is one of the biggest consumers of these companies. Some local nationals are also part of it. We should recognize those locals who are involved in making money by selling expensive medicines in the market while they can be produced locally and will be in the reach of poor people. We need to induct good scientists in the bureaucratic set up who should deal with these kinds of cases and they will be in better position to understand the work and working conditions of a scientist. We all equivocally encourage Dr Riazuldin and all scientists who are working in his team to continue his work because this is a time to return to the country by serving the nation that is already in many other crises. Keep it up

Dr nadeem ahmed | 8 years ago | Reply

I congratulate Respected Dr Riazuddin for this great success. It is really sad and tragedy that instead of utilizing qualities and experience of such distinguished scientist, some peoples not only wasted Dr riazuddin precious time but also create hurdles for producing IFN drug for poor peoples of PAKISTAN. We should respect him as founder of Molecular biology in pakistan. I always found him working day and night for progress of science.I request the concerned authorities that we should take benefits of such great scientist in field of molecular biology.

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