In a new turn of events, the administration of a new locally manufactured injection by the name of Avastin has caused at least 40 people to lose their vision. The drug has been recalled from the market immediately, and its sale has been deemed illegal while the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) embarks upon its investigation into the incident. This is evidence of how much our regulatory bodies are lacking when it comes to testing, approving and distributing medicinal drugs, the price of which is paid by struggling patients whose ailments have only gotten worse.
Caretaker Health Minister Dr. Nadeem Jan addressed the mishap and promised to hold those accountable for distributing this faulty drug. FIRs have been registered against the producers of Avastin used on diabetic patients who were seeking treatment for retinal damage. Diabetic patients are already predisposed to certain infections in the eye because of their condition and all medication or treatment given has to be administered carefully. Within a few days of their injection, Avastin caused infections in the patients’ eyes, resulting in the complete loss of vision.
The injection was newly introduced in the market, and the producers were enjoying a large profit margin. The two men produced the medicine through a multinational pharmaceutical company which, by law, is required to follow DRAP rules and regulations for creating, testing, regulating and distributing drugs. The fact that people lost their lives, and all relevant parties were taken by surprise, is proof of the fact that the producers cut corners and put the livelihoods of many at risk. This malpractice is unacceptable, especially when the international community has established the kind of standards that need to be followed in regards to producing safe medicines. We need to follow them diligently, and acknowledge that such stringent regulation was introduced for a reason.
For now, the investigation is revolving around exploring potential sources of contamination including inadequate sterilisation, infected vials or non-sterile syringes. The investigation must be expanded beyond this, and dive into the procedures followed before Avastin was introduced in the market.