The preliminary inquiry into the Avastin drug issue has highlighted its flawed repackaging and poor cold chain management. This negligence has critically impaired the vision of 68 individuals in Punjab, as official data indicates.
Among the affected, Lahore saw 25 patients, while Multan witnessed 19. Other cities also reported cases. An alarming aspect of this inquiry reveals that the injections, which had to be used within six hours post-repackaging, were managed in a highly unhygienic environment in a Model Town private hospital basement.
Shockingly, the staff, ill-equipped without gloves or proper kits, performed the compounding amidst an unsterilized operating theatre. Keeping the drug between -2ºC to -8ºC is crucial. But the probe found the medicine was often transported on bikes in ice packs and sometimes even shipped to distant cities using passenger buses.
Government Action and Roche’s Statement
Following this dire situation, the Punjab health department suspended 12 drug-related officials for negligence in Avastin’s manufacturing and distribution. This move comes in the wake of Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi’s directive to take action against those responsible for ensuring the drug’s safe utilization. Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche, the creators of Avastin, clarified on their website that their drug is approved for cancer treatments in over 130 countries.
Responding to the Punjab issue, Roche denounced the counterfeiting act and committed to assisting the authorities. They stressed that Avastin was not intended for any eye use. Alam Sher, Punjab’s deputy drug controller, added that some businesses repackage Avastin in smaller dosages to increase patient affordability.