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Pak spurious drug tragedy toll touches 100

January 26, 2012 15:58 IST

The number of people who died after taking spurious drugs supplied by a state-run hospital in Pakistan's Punjab province has touched 100 even as scores more continue to be treated in hospitals across the province, officials said on Thursday.

Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, who also holds the health portfolio, on Wednesday acknowledged that drugs supplied by the Punjab Institute of Cardiology had caused the deaths of 100 patients.

Earlier, his government had put the number of deaths at 70.

"Some 100 cardiac patients have died so far in the province due to a suspected reaction to drugs," Sharif said while responding to questions from media persons on Wednesday night.

He said those responsible for lapses would be dealt with strictly.

He also announced compensation of Rs 5 million for the family of each victim.

Passing the buck to the Pakistan People's Party-led federal government, Sharif said the purchase and checking of medicines was a federal subject.

"The federal government should check the efficacy of the medicines it procures," he said.

A spokesman for Punjab's Health Department said that about 300 patients were still being treated in several hospitals.

"Some 175 patients affected by the medicines supplied by the Punjab Institute of Cardiology have recovered and been discharged from hospitals," he said.

PPP leader Raja Riaz, the Leader of Opposition in the Punjab assembly, demanded Chief Minister Sharif's resignation, saying his government was responsible for the deaths.

He said a murder case should be registered against the chief minister.

The Federal Investigation Agency, which was asked by federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik to investigate the deaths, has arrested three owners of pharmaceutical companies involved in providing medicines to the Punjab Institute of Cardiology, where hundreds of poor patients are registered.

Media reports said the licence of one of three pharmaceutical companies that supplied bad drugs to the Punjab Institute of Cardiology had expired in April 2011.

The firm continued to make medicines in bulk and also supplied them in the open market in addition to state-run hospitals.

The Pakistan Medical Association has asked the Punjab government to establish a drug regulatory authority, change the policy for purchasing medicines that are distributed for free in state-run health facilities and upgrade a drug testing laboratory.

PMA president Ashara Nizami said the Punjab government had established the Punjab Healthcare Commission to regulate, register and monitor private hospitals and clinics but no such authority exists to monitor pharmaceutical companies and factories.

He said there were around 600 unregistered factories in Punjab and these firms, which had been registered by the federal government, were not under the control of provincial authorities.

"There is no mechanism to ensure control of quality and prices of medicines. The government should purchase only those medicines for public-sector health facilities which are also available at multi-chain pharmacies," Nizami said.

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