Two arrested as health authorities widen Avastin injection scam probe

Interim Punjab Health Minister Dr Javed Akram said on Wednesday two men had been arrested in connection with the Avastin injection scam. 

The minister said no leniency would be shown to any suspect in the case.

A number of 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 in Kasur district.

Doctors said the patients developed a life-threatening disease, endophthalmitis, an inflammation of the inner coats of the eye, which led to loss of vision.

Officials say the purported contaminated drug severely affected the vision of 68 patients in the province since the scam surfaced. The Punjab government has banned 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 is also under way to find out the prime factors leading to vision loss among patients administered the injection in Punjab, it is reported.

During a media talk on Wednesday, the provincial health minister told journalists that two suspects had been arrested in connection with the injection scam. He said the incident was being probed from all angles and resolved to bring all elements involved in the scam to justice.

“The Punjab government is under no pressure in this investigation,” Dr Akram clarified.

He said the surgeries of 15 patients out of the 68 cases had been conducted and the authorities were determined to bring back the vision of the patients. He said all points of sale of the adulterated eye drug had been sealed. 

A day earlier, the Board of Commissioners of the Punjab Healthcare Commission (PHC) directed the senior management to ensure 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 at an emergent meeting of the PHC Board of Commissioners (BoC) headed by the chairperson, retired Justice Muhammad Bilal Khan. 

A representative of the PHC also attended the meeting. He briefed the officials on the proceedings of the meeting convened by both interim provincial health ministers - Prof Javed Akram and Dr Jamal Nasir.

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