The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) has arrested three key suspects on charges of distributing sub-standard Hepatitis C vaccination in government-run hospitals
Director General Health Services Dr Sharif Ahmad Khan, former Hepatitis control programme director Dr Ghulam Subhani and assistant junior clerk Mubarak Shah were taken into custody on Wednesday.
The officials are accused of purchasing approximately 1.6 million sub-standard interferon vials. The drug used to suppress HCV, the fatal hepatitis C disease, cost the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Health Department roughly Rs250 million.
An official of the ACE told The Express Tribune they had conducted a province-wide investigation to examine the quality of interferon distributed in various hospitals last year. They found all of them were below standard. No related deaths have been confirmed so far.
“They [the accused] were shifted to the investigation cell of the ACE and will remain there till they are presented in court to confess their crimes. Medical Superintendent of Maulvi G Hospital Dr Muhammad Ali Chohan is also among the suspects and efforts are underway to arrest him as well,” said the official, who wished to remain anonymous.
Others named in the FIR include Zakir Shah, a drug inspector; Ifitkhar Shaikh, the owner of Pharmedic, a pharmaceutical company; Khalid Malik sales manager, and Amir sales agent.
Dr Ghulam Subhani who was recently transferred to the Lady Reading Hospital as deputy medical superintendent administration, purchased the second-rate drugs from Pharmedic.
The report of the inquiry conducted by the provincial health department shows a total of 1,906,229 interferon injections were purchased under the 2009-10 to 2011-12 Annual Development Programme. As per stock register entries, 1,133,998 vials were issued by the project director to various districts. The remaining 772,002 vials are missing.
Interferon vial purchased under the Benazir Health Support Programme stand at 1,698,997. The number of vials issued to various districts by the project director, as per stock register entries, is 962,280 and as of February 15, 2013 the missing vials stand at 736,967.
All in all, 1,508,699 interferon vials are still unaccounted for.
The Peshawar High Court (PHC) ordered the ACE to probe whether any patients had died as a result of being administered subpar interferon. The ACE has seized all existing stocks of the drug in hospitals.
On February 6, the PHC took suo motu notice of sub-standard interferon injections supplied to government-run hospitals to cure HCV. ACE Director Syed Fayyaz Ali Shah submitted the preliminary inquiry report on March 13, revealing it was suspected six patients died as a result of said interferon.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 4th, 2013.