LAHORE - The only cure for deadly infection of the upper respiratory tract, Anti Diphtheria Serum (ADS), is not registered in Pakistan, causing huge inconvenience to patients even in the major cities.

Neither the federal government nor any of the provinces has taken the initiative of getting ADS registered with the Drug Regulatory Authority Pakistan (DRAP), leaving no room for any interested firm to import this life-saving medicine from Croatia.

The Punjab Government is importing 1,000 vials of ADS every month and providing the same at three teaching hospitals in the province, Children’s Hospital Lahore, Nishter Hospital Multan and Allied Hospital Faisalabad.

As the ADS is not available in the open market, no private hospital anywhere in the province can treat Diphtheria patients. The situation is the same for public sector hospitals with the exception of three institutions, one each in Lahore, Multan and Faisalabad.

The hospitals in private sector cannot offer treatment and those in the public sector either refer patients to any of the three hospitals or send requisition for provision of ADS after completing the requirements of carrying out laboratory tests.

Precious time is lost in reaching to any of the three hospitals after referral from other cities that deteriorates condition of Diphtheria patients. Giving requisition for ADS is also a time consuming exercise. The hospital needs to complete diagnosis, fill a performa carrying details of a patient and send the same to the nearest of the three hospitals for provision of ADS.

“When a child is brought to the hospital, his condition is already complicated and no medicine works in such a situation”, said a doctor at Children’s Hospital Lahore.

“It is a very fatal disease and its mortality rate is 60 per cent even today. Delay in administration of ADS can prove fatal. The only solution is early diagnosis and timely administration of ADS”, he said.

After the outbreak of Diphtheria in September last year, the then Secretary Health Jawad Rafiq Malik directed verbally to the relevant officers to start the process of registration of ADS. The essential drug has not been registered even after lapse of five months.

After the situation went out of control, the authorities acted in panic and procured ADS from Afghanistan with the help of World Health Organization (WHO).

“Several innocent lives were lost because of the sheer apathy of the government. These could have been saved by providing timely treatment”, said Dr Khuzaima, working at Children’s Hospital. He lamented that the authorities were still in deep slumber and not even taking the initiative that involve no funds.

“Government can register the drug at own in emergency situation. At least, it will allow interested firms or any hospital to procure ADS. This step, which involves no money, can pave way for provision of ADS all over the province. But health is not the priority of people at helm of affairs”, Dr Khuzaima said.

Despite repeated attempts, Advisor to Chief Minister on Health Kh Salman Rafiq was not available for comments.