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Pharma firms ‘illegally’ selling vital drugs, implants at Jinnah Hospital

Pharma firms ‘illegally’ selling vital drugs, implants at Jinnah Hospital

LAHORE: Some pharmaceutical companies are involved in an illegal business of selling cardiac medicines, surgical items and orthopaedic implants at Jinnah Hospital with the alleged connivance of doctors and administration officials of the institute.

The companies have set up mobile pharmacies in the cardiology and orthopaedic departments of the hospital and cheating poor patients by selling life-saving drugs and surgical implants at blind rates under the nose of the institute’s administration.

As the companies were selling these products without an agreement, the hospital was facing financial losses that it could avoid by bringing them under a contract, an official privy to the information told Dawn.

He said patients’ attendants were unaware of the efficacy, standard and warranty of the medical products being sold by agents of the companies but had no option other than buying them. Particularly heart patients in critical condition at the cardiology department were at high risk as there was no mechanism to check quality and standard of the life-saving medicines being sold to them without any warranty, he added.

The official further said the agents brought “briefcases of medicines” to the cardiology department daily in the morning. The drugs were largely related to angiography and angioplasty. Over 15 procedures in these two categories were performed at the cardiology unit daily.

The product most sold vis-à-vis profit margin was said to be coronary stents. The agents charged Rs50,000 to Rs150,000 for stents of various brands, the official claimed. As patients were forced to purchase drugs and products on a price of agents’ choice, business volume of cardiac products alone ranged from Rs1.5 million to Rs2 million daily.

According to rules and regulations of autonomous medical institutes, no person, company or organisation could run a business point on the premises of a public sector health facility without prior agreement that normally started from signing a contract.

Interestingly, the official said, the agents had been accommodated in the angiography room of the cardiology department. Doctors referred patients to the agents only minutes before a procedure leaving no time to purchase medicines from the local market. Attendants were therefore forced to purchase a product without negotiating the price. Agents would only issue a hand-written invoice on a blank paper that did not even carry a stamp, according to the official.

He claimed that one of the major factors behind this practice was said to be the institute’s gross mismanagement as it had not made life-saving drugs available at the pharmacy on its premises. Similar businesses were being carried out in orthopaedic departments.

Allama Iqbal Medical College Principal Prof Dr Mahmood Shaukat said he was aware of the matter. He had received complaints about the illegal businesses, he added.

“We have decided to call a meeting to discuss the affairs of the hospital’s own pharmacy,” he said, adding that the institute would provide all the missing life-saving medicines and surgical instruments at its own pharmacy to facilitate patients.

Published in Dawn, May 26th, 2015

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