Hepatitis C-AIDS drug meant for 1,800 patients expires at Punjab govt storage facility

Updated July 15, 2019


Health secy claims manufacturer bound to replace stock. — AFP/File
Health secy claims manufacturer bound to replace stock. — AFP/File

LAHORE: In what appears to be a case of sheer negligence on the part of the health authorities concerned, expensive hepatitis C medicine meant for 1,800 patients suffering from co-infection -- HIV/AIDs and Hepatitis C - allegedly expired at the government’s Medical Store Depot (MSD).

Moreover, the status of the same medicine meant for 3,200 patients that was supplied to the treatment centres all over the province during the last two years was “not known”.

The ‘scam’ was officially detected and reported by a team of experts during inspection of the government MSD located on the Gurumangat Road, Gulberg.

The medicine was purchased for the treatment of those HIV/AIDS patients who were also suffering from chronic hepatitis C disease, says an official report available with Dawn.

The central warehouse - MSD – was established to store bulk purchases of medicines/equipment meant for the health department at provincial level for the projects, including IRMNCH, Expanded Programme for Immunisation (EPI), besides communicable disease control and the TB control programmes.

Health secy claims manufacturer bound to replace stock

According to the report, the hepatitis/HIV-AIDS medicine was purchased by the primary & secondary healthcare department under the Punjab Aids Control Programme (PACP) in April 2017 for 5,000 patients at a cost of Rs126 million.

The PACP was headed by additional secretary (technical) Dr Asim Altaf of the primary & secondary healthcare department.

As per sources, the medicines expired in April this year, but the programme head allegedly concealed the fact from the higher authorities to avoid punishment.

The government had recently removed Dr Asim from the programme following reports of sharp increase in the number of HIV-AIDs cases in Punjab, an official said.

Recently, they said, the experts carried out inspection of the MSD warehouse and detected the scam.

The experts in their report brought it into the notice of the higher authorities, recommending strict departmental action against those responsible for “the loss to the national exchequer.”

According to the report, the 30,000 packs of the medicine Sofiget (tablets) which were to be dispensed among 1,820 patients, were found expired.

It said the PACP received 30,000 combo packs (Sofiget+Ribazole) worth Rs126 million from Hepatitis C Control Programme on July 12, 2017 with expiry date of April 2019.

“It was stored in MSD, Gulberg, for the use of 5,000 patients of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C co-infection”, states the report.

It further stated that the PACP got issued 28,180 combo packs of hepatitis C treatment worth Rs118m from the MSD.

“These packs were distributed to the treatment centres in Punjab and their fate is not known”, the report mentions.

It pointed out that the remaining 1,820 combo packs were not collected by the PACP from the MSD and expired.

The experts recommended in the report that notice should be taken of the matter and a probe be conducted as it involved “heavy loss to the national exchequer”.

The report also mentioned that 9,475 devices purchased under the Non-Communicable Disease Programme also expired in Feb this year, exposing the apathy of the health authorities towards the patients as well as the national exchequer.

Health Secretary Zahid Akhtar Zaman, in his reply to the Dawn query about the issue said the hepatitis C medicine was procured by the Hepatitis and Infection Control Programme in FY 2016-17 from M/s Getz Pakistan Pvt Limited.

He said the stock was delivered at Government Sub Medical Store Depot, Thokar Niaz Baig, Lahore. From this stock, he said, 30,000 packs (5,000 patients courses) were issued to the PACP on July 11, 2017. The PACP dispatched approximately 5,000 packs to the patients from the Sub MSD, Thokar Niaz Baig.

Meanwhile, he said, the storage contract of the Thokar Sub MSD lapsed and the entire stock, including hepatitis C medicine, was moved to the Gulberg MSD in March/April 2018. The operational control of this store was with the M/s TCS Logistics Pvt limited.

From here, he said, the PACP issued the medicine to their facilities from August to December 2018. After all dispatches by the PACP, a total of 1,820 packs were left in the store and reached expiry in April, 2019.

M/s TCS Logistics Pvt Limited verbally informed the concerned programmes about the approaching expiry date of the remaining stock (1,820 packs).

Mr Zaman said that as per the PACP authorities, the manufacturing company was under an obligation to replace any expired stock with the fresh one.

He said on the directions of the concerned programme, two representatives of M/s Getz Pakistan Pvt Limited (the manufacturing firm) had visited the Gulberg MSD on April 16 and physically inspected the stocks.

He added that the firm had committed to replace the stock, as communicated by the officers of the concerned programme.

Published in Dawn, July 15th, 2019