It is quite alarming that spurious cardiac drugs have caused the death of nine more patients at Punjab Institute of Cardiology, CMH and Services Hospital in Lahore on Saturday. Already a number of patients have died in different hospitals across the city and now the total death toll stands at 23. The patients who were given spurious medicines showed signs of a drop in platelets and white blood cells and died afterwards. The Punjab health department has consequently banned the drugs that are alleged to have caused the deaths and have also ordered their withdrawal from the market. A probe committee has also been formed. However, given the fact that the matter involves the life and health of each one of us, one expects that the provincial government would spring into action and throw all those responsible for production of such fake medicines behind bars.

It is an open secret that counterfeit drugs are sold in broad daylight at most of the medical stores and thousands of people are affected by them on a daily basis. Yet it is a shame that neither the factories producing them nor the individuals responsible are brought to justice. There is no effective monitoring system to curb their sale. The dilemma of the patients can be very well observed in that first they have to bear with pathetic conditions at public hospitals, and secondly they do not even have access to pure drugs. Among others, corruption is a main enemy. For instance some of the drug inspectors have been found conniving with the medical stores and factories by letting them produce fake medicines in return for bribe. It has also been reported that 50 percent of the medicines produced within the country are fake. It is high time the culprits were given exemplary punishments. Strict action against the medical stores as well as the factories involved in manufacturing counterfeit drugs is a must.

The situation calls for an overhaul of our healthcare system. Stringent checks on the production of medicines must be enforced. When our leaders fall ill, they rush abroad but the average taxpayer has no option but to end up in local hospitals, besides risking his life with counterfeit drugs.