Twenty-eight patients are in danger of losing their eyesight due to a steroid used in a medicine, Dexamed, during post-operative care at the district headquarters hospital in Layyah. The patients underwent eye surgeries and after just a day, they began experiencing symptoms such as itching, swelling and blurred vision. This ruinous outcome draws attention to Pakistan’s long-standing issue of using substandard medicines, often dispensed under the care of underqualified or pseudo-pharmacists. In this case, it should be quickly identified what other outlets might be using this batch of medicine to halt usage immediately.
In early 2012, at least 137 cardiac patients died after fatal reactions from fake drugs at the Punjab Institute of Cardiology in Lahore, and a further 400 patients were also effected. Inquiries finally led to the revelation of the names of the companies responsible. Taking this previous deadly outbreak into consideration, appropriate pressure should be placed on the health department this time around. We need a strong investigation, along with a trial to hold the manufacturer accountable. Rightfully so, these 28 people, whose vision has already started to deteriorate by as much as 50 per cent, should have the option of suing the company and anyone else responsible for their life-altering conditions. They should receive compensation for state-of-the-art surgeries that might correct or improve their vision, as well as compensation for any financial damages they will incur — through missing work, for example.
We must call on the government to take stringent measures and investigate this matter until the public and these families, whose lives have been changed forever, learn who is responsible and why this detrimental problem has occurred. For too long, too many people in Pakistan have been suffering at the hands of underqualified practitioners in the health field, and it is time that we learnt to give this sector our utmost priority and work to improve the situation.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 28th, 2013.
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