Karachi: Pakistani drug authorities yesterday sealed off a pharmaceutical company suspected of producing medicine being tested in relation to the death of 130 patients in the Punjab province.
Cardiac patients in region's capital Lahore have been dying since early January. The rising death toll, especially at the state-run the Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC), saw authorities launch a high-level investigation.
Samples were sent to laboratories in London and Paris for tests as a judicial inquiry was set up to conduct the investigation.
The PIC received a report from the London laboratory which said the medicine Isotab, prescribed to raise the blood circulation in the heart, was contaminated with a very high quantity of an anti-malarial chemical.
The World Health Organisation has issued warning aimed at the withdrawal of the medicine from the market.
Yesterday morning the federal drug department and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) conducted an inspection of the Eforze Laboratories, a local pharmaceutical company where the bad medicine was manufactured.
Its administration offices as well as a plant were sealed off.
"We have sealed the department where Isotab 20mg was being manufactured," Akbar Baloch, FIA deputy director, said outside the factory.
He said the action was taken against the factory under the Drug Act and based on suspicion of manufacturing substandard drugs.
The plant would remain closed until the investigation were completed, he added.
The drug official said the company was believed to have supplied 23 batches of the medicine to PIC. Each batch comprised 400,000 tablets.
Feroz Abdullah, the owner of the company, told a private television channel that "a conspiracy was hatched against his company as the chemical of the medicine was stolen from the store in September".
Atif Hanif Bilu, the president of Wholesale Chemists Council of Pakistan, said the offending drugs, namely the 20mg, the 40mg and the IXR versions of Isotab, were withdrawn from the market three days ago.
Meanwhile, the health department has issued a public warning naming six other medicines related to cardiac disease not to be used.
The deaths have created much havoc in the province.
Questions are being asked of the government in the province, ruled by Pakistan Muslim League of Nawaz Sharif.