No yardstick set to check quality of imported drugs

July 13, 2009

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KARACHI – The Health Ministry has allowed the import of life-saving drugs from China under the FTA and India as well despite the fact that it will greatly diminish the local drugs market worth of Rs1.5 billion, the Nation has learnt.
It has been learnt that the Health Ministry has refused to stop the imports of finished goods that are not produced in Pakistan like anti-cancer vaccines and thalassemia drugs etc, from China and India although there are clear indications that these drugs are not standardised.

For instant, Interferon, an injection for Hepatitis, which is not produced in Pakistan and available at different prices up to Rs 12,000, is being imported from China. But the issue is that no standard has been set to determine its quality that make the lives of millions Pakistanis so vulnerable.

“Though the import of these drugs are allowed, our main concern is that only those drugs should be allowed to Pakistani market that have been registered at least at 2 places in the big countries of the world,” said Qaiser Waheed, ex-chairman Pharmaceutical Association of Pakistan.

He pointed out that Bangladesh had made it mandatory only those drugs should be imported into the country that were registered in 2 countries of Europe or Japan and Australia. However, in Pakistan, the case is entirely different as no system has been put in place to check these drugs coming from China and India, he wondered.

“It is to be noted that the anti-cancer and antibiotics coming from China are not original and have no certified information that make them standardised,” he disclosed.

However, the Health Ministry is of the opinion that China is a friend of Pakistan and there exists FTA between both the countries, therefore, it is not possible for them to stop the import of such life-saving drugs into Pakistan.

It was learnt that the Ministry is habitual to register drugs at the rate of Rs 15,000 and does not carry out any necessary investigation to make it sure whether the drug is worthwhile to use or not. On the other hand, China takes from Rs 0.7 to 0.8 million to register Pakistani drugs and even then they put a clause that the drug has to be tested in the government laboratories for 4 years to make it available for public there.

Interestingly, the Health Ministry is busy in making random registration at cheap rates without considering the fact that human lives are more precious than money, he added.

The Chinese and Indian products are very cheap due to the fact that industrialists there are provided with free land, free power and money to establish industries, but in Pakistan it is a dream to have free land for establishing any sort of industry.

The Pakistani drug market has potential of billions of rupees in which just 25% share is of imports but through the measures of the Health Ministry it has been cumbersome for Pakistan to cope with such issues of future threats by unregistered imported drugs being spread in the Pakistani market.

The taboo that goes with thalassaemia

July 13, 2009

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Monday, June 22, 2009
By By Aroosa Masroor

Unlike most prospective grooms, Adnan Moinuddin, did not think twice before disclosing his Thalassaemia (minor) status to his wife’s family prior to the wedding. He felt this was needed and requested his wife to take a blood test before their marriage. “Not everyone will do this, because most men consider this as an insult,” said Moinuddin during an interview with The News, adding that he was more confident about declaring his status because he knew his wife-to-be was educated and would take the right decision once she had been tested.

While Moinuddin, who is an I.T. professional, was lucky to have married a doctor who understood his condition and was willing to take the test before their marriage, most couples are ignorant of the blood disease that can be fatal for their progeny if both partners thalassaemic.

In this regard, the Federal Social Welfare Minister, Samina Khalid Ghurki, recently declared during a public speech at the International Thalassaemia Day on May 8 that the government is considering a legislation to avoid preventable blood complications and other disorders in children. The move has been widely welcomed by doctors and other quarters that consider this a step in the right direction as it would help reduce the burden of patients.

“I honestly feel this is essential because our blood banks cannot cater to the needs of the growing number of patients. We need to educate our people and a law in this regard would certainly help. Couples need to realise how painful it can be for their child to undergo a blood transfusion every 15 days and in some cases, the child cannot survive for long which would be traumatic for them too,” said Moinuddin.

Despite the complications, some continue to argue against the legislation as they feel it would be difficult to implement given the culture of inter marriages within some communities. “Since inter-family marriages are a part of our culture, there is a possibility that most families will not take the law seriously,” remarked Nasreen Haider, a social worker. She also believed that it would be particularly difficult for couples whose marriages are arranged as most families take offence when asked to take a blood test.

A lot of this it has to do with the misconception among people who fail to understand the difference between thalassaemia major and minor patients. “There is nothing wrong if a person has thalassaemia (minor) as it requires no treatment, but when a minor carrier is married to someone with a similar condition, there is a 25 per cent chance that their offspring may have thalassaemia (major),” informed Dr Salman Adil, Consultant Haematologist at Aga Khan University Hospital. In the case of both partners carrying thalassemia major, the chance rises to 50 per cent.

Since most people have large families in the country, the incidence of this fatal blood disease increases, added Dr Adil. According to an estimate, at least 5,000 patients of thalassaemia major are added to the country’s population each year.

Moreover, due to the absence of a blood screening facility at public-sector hospitals, the burden of such patients is being borne by the private sector and the NGOs.

It may, however, be noted that with a 49 per cent increase in the provincial health budget this year, the government has planned to set up thalassaemia centres in most of the major hospitals across the province. Although doctors insist that a law should be introduced to make blood tests mandatory before marriage as it could be a step towards educating the masses.

“In a developing country like ours where most people are uneducated and cannot afford bone marrow transplantation, such an endorsement from the government can help to an extent,” asserted Dr Adil adding that another way to prevent thalassaemia from growing could be abortion before the 16th week of pregnancy for which there is also religious legal permission (fatwa).

“In the case of prenatal diagnosis of thalassemia or other genetic disorders, the couple can opt for abortion and the religion permits us to, but most people are unwilling. Perhaps a law could be helpful here.”

World Blood Donor Day

July 12, 2009

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Thalassemic kids in need of frequent donations

Sunday, June 14, 2009
Bureau report

PESHAWAR: The Hamza Foundation Blood Services Saturday urged the masses to donate blood to organisation so as lives of innocent children suffering from thalassemia could be saved.

Addressing a press conference at the Peshawar Press Club, chairman of the foundation Ejaz Ali Khan said due to the military operation in certain areas of the province, the foundation could not collect blood for thalassemia patients.

He also demanded of the government to announce extra marks to the students who donate blood. “In this way we will be able to persuade the students to donate blood,” he said.

Flanked by Dr Fakhar Zaman, medical director of the foundation, he said that the Hamza Foundation had 539 registered patients of thalassemia, haemophilia and blood cancer.

Beside, he said, the foundation also provides blood to other patients free of cost. “We need 700 blood bags monthly to cater to the needs of patients registered with the foundation,” he said.

Dr Ejaz said that the medical science had confirmed that a healthy person, from 18 to 50 years of age, could donate blood four times a year. He said that blood donation also diminishes the possibility of hepatitis and AIDS.

He said that the World Donors Day would be observed today (Sunday) to create awareness among the people to donate blood. He said that presently about 80 million people across the world donate blood amongst them 39 per cent are from under-developed countries.

He said that in Pakistan 70 percent of the donated blood is given to thalassemia patients.

Dr Ejaz said that during the last three years the Hamza Foundation collected blood from over 12,000 volunteers, majority of which comes from student community.

Pims sets up Oncology unit at Children Hospital

June 7, 2009


Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) has established the first Paediatric Oncology Unit in Children Hospital PIMS, much-needed treatment facility in public sector hospitals of twin cities. Federal Minister of Health Aijaz Hussain Jakhrani was to inaugurate the Paediatric Oncology unit but he did not turn up and the Executive Director PIMS had to perform the opening ceremony.

Col Antoni Pennai Military Attach Italian Embassy, Nariko Prati wife of Italian Ambassador, ED PIMS Dr Altaf Hussain, Dr Lawrence Faulkner of cure2Children Foundation, Italy, Dr Nuzhat Yasmeen Assistant Professor Paediatric Oncology and Dr Sadaf Khalid Pakistan Branch Co-ordinator of Cure2Children Foundation were also present on the occasion.

The 8-beded unit is also has an isolation facility and a minor procedure room for chemotherapy and Bone Marrow aspiration therapeutic biopsies. While speaking at the inauguration of the POU and concluding session of the symposium on Bone Marrow in Thalassemia Children the ED PIMS Dr Altaf Hussain termed the initiative as another major achievement after start of the first Bone Marrow Transplant Unit.

He said PC-I of the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit in PIMS is being prepared and soon it would be submitted on priority basis so that the facility may be extended to the large population.

With reference to the concluding session of the symposium on Bone Marrow in Thalassemia Children, he said, Bone Marrow Transplant Unit is a beautiful example of Public Private Partnership. Pims and Cure2Children Foundation are providing free services of Bone marrow transplantation to poor patients who can not afford the expensive treatment.

While giving a brief background of the POU, Dr Nuzhat Yameen Assistant Professor Paediatric Oncology Unit said Children Hospital is providing Oncological services since 1985, however a separate oncology unit was a long desire.

The tumour registry project run by this unit started in November 2005 and till date 450 children were diagnosed with different cancer types and monthly 350 patients visit OPD visits and 220-day care Chemotherapy, she continued.

Children with common and rare cancer are treated in this unit and there is an excellent teamwork between Paediatric oncology and Paediatric surgeons. This is the only public sector cancer unit, which has a huge catchments area from Kabul to Lahore, she added.

She appreciated the efforts and commitment of Italian NGO Cure2Children Foundation for running the Bone Marrow transplant facility in children hospital. She opined that the two-bedded unit is insufficient to meet the large number of children suffering from the life threatening ailments like Thalassemia, Aplastic anaemia and leukaemia, which can only be treated by Bone Marrow Transplant.

She was of the view that this facility should be further expanded in future so more and more children can take befit of this facility. She requested the authorities concerned to approve PC-1 of the 16-bedded Bone Marrow Transplant unit and 25 bedded Paediatric Oncology Unit.

Bombay Blood Group detected in Thalassaemic patient

June 4, 2009


Thursday, June 04, 2009
By correspondent

The first case of a Thalassaemia patient with ‘Bombay Blood Group’ has been reported in Karachi. According to a PPI news report, the three-year-old daughter of Wajahat Ali is suffering from Thalassaemia and has a Bombay blood group.

Dr S. I. Abidi, Head of Pathology Department at Hamdard University Hospital told The News: “The Bombay Blood Groups is a very rare group throughout the world , and is present due to mutation in the genetic make up of the body.”

The problem with the Bombay Blood Group is that it cannot be transfused, even with the O positive blood group, which is the universal donor, he added.“There are only a few people with the particular blood type in Karachi, and if transfused with any other blood group, the blood cells start to break and results in a severe immune reaction,” he said.

He added that Thalassaemia is a big calamity for any individual, and enough donors are not available to support the blood supply of the patient, then it proves to be fatal. He appealed to citizens who possess Bombay Blood Group to step forward and help the three-year-old girl.

100,000 Pakistanis suffering from Thalassemia

May 10, 2009

Courtesy by:

ISLAMABAD – Realising the fact that 50,000 to 100,000 patients are suffering from Thalassemia in Pakistan and every year 5,000 babies are born with the deadly disease, the World Thalassemia Day is being observed today (Friday) with a solemn pledge to treat every patient.

In Pakistan, 5 out of 100 people are Thalassemia patients and around 8 million population is Thalasemia carrier. Thalasemia is an inherited characteristic of blood. It reduces the amount of haemoglobin in a human body leading to anaemia.

“Thalassemia International Federation has designated May 8, as World Thalassemia Day to show solidarity with patients and ever year like other parts of the world, this day is observed in Pakistan,” said Dr Tahira, Director PIMS Thalassemia Centre and Associate Professor of Haematology while talking to TheNation.

While defining the term Thalassemia carrier, she said it means a person having the gene that causes this blood order.

“However, carriers of this disease can live a healthy life but if they marry another person having the disease gene then they are chances of that they can transmit it to next generation, which may cause the Thalassemia,” she added.

She said that around 650 patients were currently register with Thalassemia Centre PIMS and all kind of required medical facilities were being provided to them, including blood transfusion. About Thalasemia, she said; “It is an inherited blood disorder that causes the body to produce less haemoglobin.

“Haemoglobin helps red blood cells spread oxygen throughout body. Low levels of haemoglobin may cause anaemia, an illness that makes feel weak and tired. Severe cases of anaemia may damage organs and result in death,” she added.

Fehmida calls for public Awareness on Thelessemia

May 10, 2009

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Islamabad—Dr Fehmida Mirza, Acting President Islamic Republic of Pakistan has said that today, millions of children across the world are suffering from Thalassemia, which need immediate attention of the nations individually and collectively.

She expressed these views in her message on the Thalassemia Day being observed on Friday (tomorrow) across the globe. The Acting President said that lack of awareness among the masses was the main cause behind the increase in Thalassemia disease in Pakistan . She stressed for raising public awareness for prevention of the dreadful blood disorder.

Dr. Fehmida Mirza said that Thalassemia is a genetically transmitted blood disorder, which has affected million of people around the world and its further proliferation could only be slashed down by avoiding intra-family marriages.

Dr. Fehmida Mirza called upon the Ministry of Health to allocate necessary funds for establishment of more Thalassemia Centres to ensure health coverage and blood transfusion services to the deserving patients in both the rural and urban areas of the country.

She also appealed to the Non-governmental organizations and philanthropist community to generously donate for establishment of such Centres where deserving Thelessemia patients could undergo clinical care besides having free blood transfusion services. Dr. Fehmida Mirza also called upon the Media to create awareness among masses to stop further proliferation of the blood disorder.

Prevention of Thalassemia

May 10, 2009

Courtesy by:

Saturday, May 09, 2009
By By Our Correspondent

FEDERAL Social Welfare Minister Samina Khalid Ghurki has said the federal government would soon pass legislation for mandatory blood tests of couples before marriage at federal and provincial level to avoid preventable blood complications and other disorders in children.

She was speaking at a public health seminar on “Thalassemia – its prevention, awareness and social responsibilities” organised by the Mir Khalil-ur-Rehman Memorial Society in collaboration with Sundas Foundation in connection with World Thalassemia Day at the auditorium of Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Friday.

Samina Ghurki said Islamic countries such as Saudi Arab and Iran had already made legislation in this regard. She also stressed to create awareness among masses for prevention of thalassemia by conducting blood screening tests.

The federal minister said that cousin marriages were also a major cause of emergence of a large number of thalassemia patients every year in the country, and this trend should be discouraged to avoid blood diseases and other physical disorders. She said the government would stand by thalassemia patients despite the fact it government was entangled in a host of crises. Like modern facilities in public sector hospitals in the cities, she also stressed the need to provide facilities of blood transfusion in public sector health institutions in smaller districts across the country.

Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah also stressed the need to create awareness among masses to prevent thalassemia among the next generation. He proposed to incorporate an article of mandatory blood test of prospective couple in Nikahnama to avoid the spread of thalassemia.

He said the Punjab government would take every step to provide preventive and curative health facilities to the people in the province, and in this regard, he added the government could stem the spread of thalassemia by providing blood screening facilities in public sector hospitals and BHUs in remote areas of the province.

CM’s Task Force for Elementary Education and Punjab Education Foundation Chairman Raja Muhammad Anwar said mankind had never bowed before natural and unnatural calamities and diseases, and added that human beings had discovered cures of deadly diseases such as plague, malaria, chicken pox, TB, etc, which had killed hundreds of thousands of people around the world. Similarly, he said, the Thalassemia disease also required prevention more than treatment and cure.

While working with an NGO for the rehabilitation of deaf and dumb people, he informed that it was observed that parents of over 90 per cent patients were cousins. “Several medical and blood complications can be prevented through blood tests before marriages between cousins,” he asserted.

LCCI President Mian Muzaffar Ali said that people could prevent a lot of problems and diseases with a slight improvement in lifestyles, as he believed that most of the problems and diseases were self-created hence preventable.

Renowned columnist and Sundas Foundation Chairman Munnoo Bhai said that Sundas Foundation was working in three cities, where screened blood transfusion was carried out upon over 5,000 thalassemia patients twice a month. He said the organisation was providing blood and safe blood transfusion services to thalassemia patients free of cost after getting donations of safe blood from healthy donors.

According to a safe estimate, he said, the people of Pakistan gave Rs 140 billion in charity every year and half of which had been going to professional mendicants. “If this charity is properly used then most of the problems of people could be resolved and country’s progress ensured. The people are very passionate about ameliorating the lot of the needy people in the country,” he added.

King Edward Medical University (KEMU) Vice-Chancellor Prof Dr Zafarullah Khan said that developed countries had made legislation to control the spread of thalassemia disease, while it was multiplying in our country in the absence of legislation for prevention of this deadly disease. “It could easily be transmitted from parents to their children,” he said.

Qazi Abdul Qadeer Khamosh urged the government to provide diagnostic and treatment facilities to the thalassemia patients in public sector hospitals.

Rakhshanda Naveed suggested that there should a separate channel to create awareness regarding prevention, control and treatment of diseases among the people in the country. She also appealed to philanthropists to adopt a thalassemic patient for their effective treatment to enable them to lead a normal life.

Besides, Pakistan ENT Association Vice-President Dr Nasrullah Rana, TV artiste Kanwal and others also spoke on the occasion.

State Bank of Pakistan will start operation in Larkana

May 10, 2009

Courtesy by:

LARKANA: May 8, 2009. (Nazir Siyal reports for PCP) State Bank of Pakistan will be opened soon in Larkana and operation camp office would start functioning with all its features and fascilities of currency exchange and export business for the people of Larkana and other districts. This he discussed and said in a meeting with District Coordination Officer Larkana Mohammed Jaffer Abbasi by the Deputy Governor (DG)) State Bank of Pakistan Imran Shahzad here at DCO office on Friday.

State Bank delegation including the Director SBP Qasim Nawaz, Chief Manager SBP Sajid Ali Shah, Munwer Ali, Abdul Hakim and others held meeting for the establishment of camp office of State Bank of Pakistan, which was announced by the Ex-Governor State Bank Shamshad Akhtar during her visit to Larkana.

DCO Lakana on the occasion appreciated the efforts of SBP delegation for the establishment of State Bank camp office, he directed Taluka Municpal Administration to immediately report municipal vacant areas/plots and proposed sites for the State Bank in Larkana.

On the occasion DCO Larkana told that various locations including Sachal Colony, CMC VIP road side, Sambara Inn, in front the vacant areas of Central Prison, Old Bus Stand area, opposite Government Boys Degree College Larkana and other locations were identified and discussed the security points and business opportunities.

The State Bank officials said that the people of Larkana are fortunate and opportunity to explore their business all over the world after the opening of the branch.

Later, the delegation of State Bank of Pakistan visited the proposed sites in Larkana and reviewed about the security areas and business opportunities.

The meeting attended by the Chambers of Commerce and Industry representatives, EDO Larkana Agha, DDO (HR) Ameer Abro, DEO revenue Tariq Khokhar, TMO Larkana and others on the occasion.

Whereas, the District Coordination Officer Larkana Mohammed Jaffer Abbasi presided over the gathering of Agriculture Department in connection with the Certificate Distribution ceremony under the Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Youth Development program here at Circuit House on Friday.

DCO Larkana said that young people should utilize their capacity after the technical training in the Farming and machinery. He said the skill development will open their doors of Job opportunities in the market, so they should utilize their services and create an environment of skill development among all others.

DCO Larkana distributed 92 completion certificates of Mechanical Trainings, Farming, nursery and other fields among the youths.

The event was attended by EDO Agriculture Tharoo Mal, DO, Agricultural, DDO forest and several youths on the occasion.

Meanwhile, Larkana Blood Bank and Thalassaemia (LBBT) center working under the umbrella of The Blessing Foundation (TBF) in Sukkur and Larkana, has appealed the common men to come forward and voluntarily to donate blood for the thaelaesmic patients. This was said in a press statement issued by the organization here on the eve of International Thaelessmia day.

The organization is providing services in the field of Blood transfusion related diseases including Thalaessemia, Hemophilia and Leukemia and other aspects. The LBB/TBF has served 1300 blood pints to the poor patients of interior Sindh.

Larkana Blood Bank and Thalassaemia arrange weekly/monthly blood donation camps at different locations of district for collecting fresh blood to save the lives of Thallasaemic patients.

Qurat-ul-Ain the project coordinator and administrator of the LBB/TBF told that the organization providing free of cost monthly blood to all Thaelassemic patients on priority basis as per to the requirement and need basis. She said about 300 Thalassaemic patients are registered, while 24 hour emergency screening of blood with cross matching and other vaccination, tests including HIV/AIDS, HBV, HCV, Malarial Parasite, Blood related Fresh Frozen Plasma (FFP) with Blood transfusion services provided to the patients of Larkana, Qamber– Shahdad kot, Jacobabad, Dadu and other concerned districts as well as other parts of Balochistan she told.

She has appealed to the people to come forward to help needy people; they are suffering from various illnesses, support the institution and take part in the blood donation voluntary services.

She urged the people of civil society, business community, traders, philanthropists and the citizens for the blood donations for thaelesmia patients to promote healthy environment in Larkana district.

‘15,000 bottles of blood required daily for transfusion’

May 10, 2009

Courtesy by:

Friday, May 08, 2009
By Farooq Baloch


About 15,000 bottles of blood are required monthly in Karachi alone to cater the blood requirement of Thalassaemia but existing blood banks cannot arrange for the supply of demanded quantum of blood, said Kashif Iqbal Thalassaemia Care Centre (KITCC), Chairman Muhammad Iqbal while talking to The News on Thursday.

Iqbal said that families of Thalassaemia Major patients are presently in agony due to shortage of blood transfusion facilities in the city. “This scenario has multiplied the hardships of Thalassaemia families. KITCC now intends to provide better transfusion services from its own blood bank to thalassaemic families,” he concluded.

“To keep these children alive they have to be given new blood every 15 to 20 days throughout their lives,” he said. “Unfortunately, due to the lack of awareness among people and lack of cooperation on part of the government and its health ministry, T-major patients die at an average of 15 years or so,” he lamented.

“We can’t do much about T-major patients but by spreading awareness and taking precautionary measures we can make sure that two T-minor patients don’t wed thus T-major cases would be reduced,” he continued.

KITCC is all set to launch it own blood bank to provide free of charge blood transfusions for needy Thalassaemia patients. All arrangements, including purchase of necessary machines and equipment, have been made to initiate the functioning of the blood bank while we have also applied for a license, said Iqbal.

Iqbal said that KITCC Blood Bank, which has been made exclusively for thalassaemic patients, is the only blood bank of its kind in Pakistan, as according to him there is no ward for such patients in whole country. Another bank exists in Islamabad but its services are substandard. “Any one can register their children with our blood bank for free treatment,” he said, adding: “20 to 25 children can be facilitated everyday in the blood bank.”

Thalassaemia is the most common genetically transmitted disorder of haemoglobin encompassing 8-10 million carrier population (Thalassaemia Minor) in the country. Presently 0.2 million are Thalassaemia major patients and 6-7 thousand babies are born every year with Thalassaemia Major.

“Simply the provision of treatment facilities is not the answer but prevention measures involving extensive awareness campaign are required to wipe out Thalassaemia,” Iqbal asserted.

Criticising the government, he said that Marvi Memon had once argued in the National Assembly that pre-marriage couple testing for Thalassemia should be made compulsory as is the tradition in other countries but Federal Health Minister Ijaz Jakharani opposed it.


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