As many as 28 patients, who underwent eye surgeries at the district headquarters hospital in Layyah since July 18, might lose their eyesight on account of a steroid used during the post-operative cure The Express Tribune has learnt.
Health Department has recalled the stock of the medicine provided to the hospital and started an investigation supervised by Executive District Officer (EDO) Muhammad Iqbal Bhatti.
Doctors said the patients had been visiting the hospital complaining of a progressive loss of vision since the operations. The use of the steroid was finally stopped on Wednesday, shortly after a laboratory report suggested that they had developed an allergic reaction to the medicine.
While the patients are not using the drops any longer, the doctors who treated them fear that the damage may be irreversible. Most of the patients have lost more than 50 per cent of their eyesight.
Dr Zeeshan Mirza of the DHQ hospital told The Express Tribune that 16 of the patients had been operated on July 18 and 12 on July 20. He said they were prescribed Dexamed- a steroid that prevents the release of substances in the body that cause inflammation- as post-operative medication.
In less than a day, he said, they all started reporting itchiness, swelling and blurred vision. The similarity of their complaints made the doctors curious so their samples were sent for laboratory tests.
Dr Mirza said the medication was discontinued on July 24 and the symptoms had eased.
He said the doctors suspected that the medicine was tainted. He said the lot was purchased in November 2012, but was first used on July 18. Its expiry date was April 2014, he added. He said the hospital administration had started an investigation.
He said the medicine was purchased after a committee approved it. The committee that approved purchase of Dexamed comprised the then Health EDO Sajjad Sarwar, DCO Mushtaq Anjum and DHQ MS Dr Sadiq Suhrani. The approval was sent to the Health secretary, who had then forwarded it to the Health DG. The final payment was made by the EDO.
EDO Bhatti said an investigation had begun on the orders of the Health director general.
Muhammad Akram, a storekeeper at the hospital, told The Express Tribune that 30,000 Dexamed injections had been purchased, of which 26,400 were still unused. He said the entire lot had been seized by the EDO.
According to Dr Mirza, the medicine is used in an average of 5,000 operations every year.
He said eight of the patients were in a critical condition.
“Eight of them are in critical condition. I fear that if they may not see again,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 26th, 2013.