Pakistan probes distributors of Swiss cancer drug after patients lose vision

Islamabad, Sep 26 (EFE).- Pakistan has started investigating local distributors of a Swiss pharmaceutical company after several diabetic patients who used its cancer drug lost their eye sight over the past few days, officials said on Tuesday.

According to government figures, more than 60 diabetic patients from various regions of the eastern Punjab province lost vision after being injected with the Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche’s Avastin cancer drug.

The Avastin drug is primarily used to treat cancer patients but is also prescribed for diabetes-related eye conditions.

On Monday, the federal government imposed a country-wide ban on using Avastin.

“Two distributors have been arrested so far in connection with the case of people going blind after using the Avastin drug,” provincial interim health minister Javed Akram told EFE.

The minister said a high-level committee was probing the case.

Akram said the distributors allegedly repackaged and supplied the drug “in unhygienic conditions.”

The cancer drug is used in the country at a much lower dose to treat certain blindness-causing conditions. Hence, the drug is repackaged to make it affordable to its customers.

In recent months, the prices of drugs in the country have increased multi-fold due to rising inflation and the depreciating local currency.

According to Roche’s website, Avastin (bevacizumab) is approved in more than 130 countries, including the United States, to treat several types of cancer, including advanced stages of breast, colorectal, non-small cell lung, kidney, ovarian, and cervical.

The Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan said the distribution of registered Avastin injections has been put on hold until verification of their quality through sampling and laboratory testing to safeguard public health.

“Healthcare professionals, pharmacists, and chemists have been directed to stop the distribution, dispensing, and administration of this product immediately,” the drug regulator said in a statement on Sunday. EFE


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