LAHORE - The Federal Investigation Agency, succumbing to the pressure from a federal minister, has so far been unable to register a case against those involved in sale of unregistered stents to cardiac patients on inflated rates, an FIA investigator told The Nation yesterday.

Source said one of the companies involved in sale of unregistered stents is owned by a closed relative of a federal minister, which is hindering an official action against the accused.

On the other hand, according to the sources, the committee constituted to probe the incident of implanting unregistered stents will fail to identify culprits as the record is missing at Mayo Hospital, Punjab Institute of Cardiology and Jinnah Hospital.

Following a raid at Mayo Hospital on Friday, an FIA team had unearthed a gang involved in selling fake stents to heart patients and extracting money from them. These fraudsters used to sell fake stents to the patientas for up to Rs 200,000, which actually cost Rs6,000.

Stents worth Rs 40 million were seized by the FIA team, with sources claiming that employees of the hospital were also involved in the scam.

One of the companies involved in selling of unregistered stents is Pak Punjab Cardex Medical System. Former address of the company was 202-Eden Heights, 6 Main Gulberg-II, while now it is situated at 257-K Phase-I, DHA Lahore.

Another company, AM System, is located at Main Market Gulberg, Imtiaz Center Plaza 3rd Floor Room No-3, Lahore.

Third one is Saving Life Technologies (SLT), 126 H block, Model Town Lahore, while fourth company involved in this filthy business is Boston Scientific, 5-Km Sundar Road, Raiwind Road Lahore.

One Touseef Ahmad had lodged a complaint with FIA, alleging that these companies have established stalls outside cardiology department of Mayo Hospital. Their representatives were involved in selling unregistered stents to the patients on very high prices, he added.

The complainant also alleged that some doctors of the hospital were also involved in this heinous business and they sometime recommend a stent to normal person in order to mint money.

The FIA team visited Mayo hospital and one of its members pretended to be a heart patient and got himself checked by the doctors. After check up, the doctors told him that he was suffering from a cardiac problem and he would have to go through angioplasty to insert stent which will cost Rs200,000.

Then, the undercover officer visited the Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC) to get second opinion regarding his ‘heart condition’, where doctor gave him a clean chit. The FIA team also met with such patients who were charged heavy amounts for insertion of stents but when they felt pain next time they were told by other doctors at abroad that no stent was inserted in their body at the first place.

Sources in FIA claimed that that the agency has sought import record of stents from Customs authorities so that they could establish the real number of stents being inserted to the people.

In India, which has a population of 1.27 billion people, health institutions s planted only 200,000 stents to different patients during the year 2015.

Soon after the scam surfaced, Punjab Chief Minister constituted a team to look into the matter headed by Chief Minister Inspection Team (CMIT).

However, sources claim, taking benefit from changes in the composition of inquiry committee, an organized mafia has managed to get rid of the record at three leading hospitals providing facility of angioplasty.

“Record of last 16 years is unavailable at these hospitals. As such the committee will not be able to identify that whether the stents were registered with DRAP or not. Unavailablity of the record is intentional to save doctors and staff accommodating blue eyed companies after taking kickbacks,” said a doctor at PIC, who wanted not to be quoted due to fear of victimisation.

“Unregistered stent merely costs Rs6,000. But for a patient, it costs Rs125,000. These stents are either expired or substandard. Senior cardiologists earn huge money by implanting smuggled, expired and outdated stents,” said the doctor, adding the practice was continuing for the last 10-15 years and the incident would not make any difference in future.

Punjab Specialized Healthcare and Medical Education Secretary Najam Ahmed Shah had already constituted a committee comprising senior cardiologists to probe the incident of use of unregistered stents at Mayo Hospital. The committee will submit recommendations to register the pharmaceutical companies/firms with the DRAP.

The committee includes Prof Azhar Kiyani, Prof Nadeem Hayat Malik, Prof Saqib Shafi and Prof Anjam Jalal. It will submit a list of unregistered stents and other products along with the names of manufacturers.

All such companies will apply for registration and the Authority will register quality products according to the list recommended by the experts’ committee within a month.

When asked why an FIR has not been registered so far, the FIA investigator told The Nation: “We have filled Form V of Drug Act 1976 which shows that by selling unregistered stents violation of section 27 (4) has been committed.” After completion of the inquiry, the accused would be arrested, he added.

 

AMRAIZ KHAN/IQTIDAR GILANI