The interim Punjab government has announced its decision to impose a two-week ban on the sale and usage of an injection which allegedly caused loss of vision until quality check results were obtained.
“Government of Punjab to provide free treatment to all patients,” caretaker Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Sunday.
He made the post after presiding over a meeting with the Health Department and doctors to address ‘Avastin’ (Bevacizumab)-related blindness cases.
Media reports diabetic patients in Lahore, Kasur, and Jhang districts were administered Avastin injections to address retinal damage. But such injections led to severe infections among patients, including the brother of senior PPP leader Chaudhry Manzoor and his friend. They were reported to have a loss of eyesight.
Naqvi, who was back after a one-week trip to China, has ordered immediate strict action against drug inspectors responsible for the availability of non-sterile injections with a pending inquiry.
The interim government has also formed a high-powered inquiry team for swift investigation and instructed the police to ensure the arrests of those responsible.
Naqvi has banned the sale of ‘Avastin’ till the inquiry report was received. The government has also ordered that the stock of a locally manufactured injection, allegedly responsible for causing loss of vision in several patients in Punjab, should be recalled.
A five-member committee is investigating the loss of eyesight among patients. The committee is led by King Edward Medical University Dr Asad Aslam Khan as convener. Other members include Director General Drugs Control Muhammad Sohail, Mayo Hospital’s Dr Muhammad Moin, Lahore General Hospital’s Dr Tayyaba and Services Hospital’s Prof Dr Mohsin.
The Punjab chief minister also ordered the clinics to conduct an investigation of the clinics concerned. Naqvi has ordered officials to take all steps to tackle the outbreak of conjunctivitis. He stressed the need for ensuring the presence of “qualified doctors” in hospitals.
Officials at the meeting told the caretaker CM that conjunctivitis was treatable.
‘Rs100,000 to Rs150,000 profit made on one injection’
Earlier in the day, officials told investigation committee head Dr Asad Aslam that vial of Avastin was 100 miligram and a dose of 1.2mg was used for the eyes.
The price of injection ranged from Rs28,000 to Rs40,000 in the market, they said and added that 83 doses were extracted from one injection. The price of every dose was fixed at Rs1,500 to Rs2,000.
Special dose for eyes has been brought within the reach of people with low income because of which around Rs100,000 to Rs150,000 profit was being made on one injection, Aslam was told by officials.
They added that the injection was being supplied to different private and eye trust hospitals. They have also assigned a task to drug inspectors of different districts for further investigation into the matter.
Federal health ministry recalls injection
Earlier on Saturday, caretaker Health Minister Nadeem Jan said that the injection that caused a loss of vision in several users has been recalled.
“The injection in question had been recalled from the market, and selling it was no longer permitted,” he said in a press conference in Islamabad. “The supplier [of the injections], two men, a first information report (FIR) has been registered against them and a legal inquiry has been initiated.”
The two men responsible for its supply were named Naveed and Hafiz Bilal. Raids were being conducted to arrest them.
Jan said that reports about Avastin users facing loss of vision had been received from Multan, Sadiqabad, Kasur, and Lahore.
Separately, the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan issued recall orders for a batch of Pedolil suspension, a composition of Paracetamol, due to its “substandard quality”.
The authority called back Batch 167 of the product which is normally used to treat fever and mild body pain. But DRAP’s notice said that “inaccurate use of the medicine could lead to blood disorders and damage to kidney and liver.”