Punjab interim Health Minister Dr Javed Akram said on Wednesday that two men had been arrested in connection with the Avastin injection scam. The eye drug is allegedly responsible for causing vision loss in diabetic patients across the province.
“No leniency will be shown to any suspect in the case,” he vowed.
Several diabetic patients in Lahore, Kasur and Jhang districts were administered Avastin injections to address retinal damage, but the doses led to severe infections. The issue first surfaced when several cases of the drug’s reaction were reported from the Kasur district.
According to doctors, the patients developed a life-threatening disease, endophthalmitis, an inflammation of the inner coats of the eye, which led to loss of vision.
Official figures revealed that the purported contaminated drug severely affected the vision of 68 patients in the province since the scam surfaced. The Punjab government has slapped a ban on the eye drug for an indefinite period across the province, besides launching a portal to collect data on the patients affected by the drug and provide them with treatment.
A high-level inquiry was also under way to find out the prime factors leading to vision loss among patients administered the injection in Punjab.
During a media talk today, the provincial health minister told journalists that two culprits had been arrested in connection with the injection scam but didn’t give details of the suspects.
He said the incident was being probed from all angles and vowed to bring all elements involved in the scam to justice. “The Punjab government is under no pressure in this investigation,” Dr Akram clarified.
He went on to say that surgeries of 15 patients out of the 68 cases surfaced so far had been conducted and the authorities were determined to bring back the vision of the patients.
Dr Akram further stated that all points of sale of the allegedly adulterated eye drug had been sealed.
Special inspections of hospitals using Avastin ordered
A day earlier, the Board of Commissioners of the Punjab Healthcare Commission (PHC) directed the senior management of the commission to be prepared for special inspections of the hospitals where eye infection cases were reported due to the administration of Avastin injection to the patients.
The directions were issued in an emergent meeting of the PHC Board of Commissioners (BoC) headed by chairperson retired Justice Muhammad Bilal Khan.
A representative of the PHC, who had attended the meeting of the recently formed committee by the government also attended the BoC meeting.
He briefed the BoC regarding the proceedings of the meeting convened by both interim provincial health ministers — Prof Javed Akram and Dr Jamal Nasir.
The BoC was informed that the issues related to import, compounding and dispensing of the dosage for eye patients will be investigated by the committee, while the PHC was asked to investigate the practices in the hospitals where the injection was administered.
After deliberations, the BoC directed the PHC senior management to make preparations for any action, especially, the inspections of the hospitals where the infections have been reported.
The BoC also ordered inspections of these healthcare establishments to ensure implementation of the minimum service delivery standards, especially pertaining to infection protection and control, medication management, qualifications of the medics, and sterilisation of operation theatres.
The BoC also ordered the issuance of an advisory for the affected patients to initiate complaints about these incidents. For this, they can also WhatsApp their complaints at 0306 0843500, for initiation of investigation by the PHC.