ISLAMABAD: Health authorities have directed five pharmaceutical companies to recall medicines/over-the-counter (OTC) products that have been found to be spurious.

According to a document available with Dawn, the medicines were tested at the Punjab Drug Testing Laboratory in Faisalabad and were found to be spurious.

The medicines include immune stimulant “Liquid Amco E Sel 1,000ml” manufactured by M/s Amcon Vets Pharma, “Liquid Liver Gold 1,000ml” manufactured by M/s AL-Fateh Trading Company and “Powder. Paracetamol Plus” manufactured by M/s Vibra Pharma (Pvt) Ltd.

Moreover, “Powder. Flusher 7 Plus” manufactured by M/s Horbax Enterprises and “Powder. Prima Flash” manufactured by M/s Primax Company were also found to be spurious.

Health authorities ask for these medicines to be recalled; FIRs against firms soon

As per the document dated Feb 22, retailers (pharmacies, medical stores), wholesalers, distributors, and health facilities have been directed to stop the dispensation of these products and update the respective area drug inspectors on their current inventory and consumption.

The drug inspectors have been directed to increase surveillance in the market to monitor the availability of the defective products.

Consumers, healthcare professionals, and patients have been advised to stop the use of the said batches as they may pose risk to health.

Dawn tried to contact the companies concerned for comment through sources in the Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (PPMA) and the health sector, but they were not aware of them. They mentioned that these companies deal in nutraceuticals or over-the-counter products and are relatively new in the market.

Director General, Health, Punjab Muhammad Sohail, while talking to Dawn, said that all five companies were manufacturing spurious medicines and police had been contacted to register FIRs against them.

“We are trying to trace their owners and strict action would be taken against them,” he said.

A member of the PPMA, Arshad Mehmood, told Dawn that those companies were not member of the association.

It is worth mentioning that last month, the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap) had directed the pharmaceutical companies to recall nine contaminated syrups.

During the past three months, the regulator has found seven pharmaceutical companies involved in producing syrups with high proportions of propylene glycol (PG), a prohibited substance.

Drap chief executive officer Dr Asim Rauf said that in January nine syrups, manufactured by five pharma companies, were found contaminated, taking the number of companies involved in producing contaminated syrups to seven as two such companies were found in December.

Last month, the regulator seized a batch of PG imported from a Thailand-based company after detecting impurities.

The acceptable level of impurities in PG excipient — used in cough syrups — is 1.1 per cent, and any contamination above that level can lead to multiple organ failure.

The batch, imported from Thail­and, had an impurity level of 25pc.

According to a document issued by Drap, upon ingestion, PG impurities — also called ethylene glycol (EG) — metabolise into toxins that affect the central nervous system and heart, and can cause kidney damage, which can be fatal.

The issue of poisonous syrups caused global embarrassment for Pakistan in December 2023 when the Maldives informed about contamination in medicines imported from Pakistan.

The South Asian state claimed that substances found in the syrups were used in hydraulic brake fluids, stamp pad inks, paints, plastics and cosmetics.

The World Health Organisation also issued an alert regarding the products of a Lahore-based pharmaceutical company.

Published in Dawn, February 25th, 2024

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