PHARMACISTS in London have given shocking preliminary results of tests carried out on the contaminated batch of medicine — prescribed to over 120 patients who lost their lives — dispensed by Lahore’s Punjab Institute of Cardiology. Not only was the said batch of Isotab, a common drug for treating cardiovascular conditions, found laced with an anti-malarial substance, the case study of 30 patients it killed revealed that the prescribed dosage was much higher than recommended by drug authorities internationally. It was also found that the two factors combined with the adverse reaction caused by other prescribed drugs to cause the deaths. This is more than a case of consuming a contaminated medicine; in a broader sense, it casts doubts on the medical ability of doctors who prescribe certain life-saving drugs over and above their recommended dose, which can prove fatal. This is precisely what was discovered by UK pharmacists and cardiologists who examined the case studies of the PIC victims besides running laboratory tests on the drug samples.
It is a matter of grave concern, indeed a matter of life and death as proved in this case, that the contaminated medicine should have been cleared by a number of drug-testing laboratories in Pakistan; it appears our laboratories can only verify the dosage of the listed active ingredients in a medicine without being able to trace the presence of any foreign substance in a drug. Clearly, this is inadequate in a country where the presence of spurious drugs in the market is a known problem. The federal and provincial governments must upgrade their drug-testing labs to international standards, and the Punjab government must also investigate the possibility of medical malpractice that could have
resulted in overdose prescriptions. This is absolutely necessary to avoid the recurrence of any such tragedy.