Pakistan bans Roche cancer drug following several reports of vision impairment in patients

Pakistan bans Roche cancer drug following several reports of vision impairment in patients

Islamabad (Web Desk): The Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) temporarily banned the use of a cancer medication distributed by Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche pending an investigation, as many as 40 cases of vision impairment were reported in various cities of Punjab including Lahore, Multan and Sadiqabad. 

In a statement, DRAP said that the health authorities in Punjab had launched the investigation into the drug Avastin which is licensed for use in Pakistan.

Javed Akram, Punjab's minister for specialised health, said police were questioning two men they believe to be the drug's distributors in the province.

“A high level committee has been constituted to probe the issue. A case has been registered against the distributor and his aide,” Akram said.

Earlier, Punjab caretaker Minister for Primary and Secondary Healthcare Nasir Jamal revealed on Sunday that separate dealers were selling counterfeit injections in Lahore, Kasur, Multan and Sadiqabad.

He added that data on those selling the counterfeit injections in different cities of the province was being gathered.

"None of the operatives of the fake injection-selling network has been arrested yet," Dr Javed Akram said, adding that a list of the people affected by fake injections is also being prepared.

Repeated calls to Roche Pakistan’s spokesman were not answered. However, on its website, Roche said Avastin was approved in more than 130 countries, including the United States, to treat several types of cancer.

Alam Sher, Punjab's deputy drug controller who filed the police complaint against the distributors, said that some companies buy Avastin and repackage it in smaller doses to make it more affordable for patients.

A sharp drop in the value of the local currency against the US dollar has inflated the price of drugs in Pakistan, as the finished product, or the constituents that go into locally made medicines, are imported. Record high inflation has also diminished the purchasing power of many people.