Monday, January 30, 2012

The drug dilemma: Atrovastatin on a killing spree


This post was originally published on The Express Tribune, Blogs section. A link to the original post can be found here.

I visited Pakistan this winter to spend my vacation with my family.  After spending some lovely days with my parents in the cool country side of world’s best citrus producing area, Sargodha, on my dad’s farmhouse, I returned to Rawalpindi for some official purpose. Tired of driving all along the way, I received a phone call from my sister who told me that she had a stomach gas problem that afternoon, which resulted in lowering of blood pressure and that she fainted, and by the time she called me, she was feeling better. Gas stomach problem is the ultimate diagnosis in our villagers. Knowing that she has been hypertensive as well as diabetic for some time, I got worried and inquired exactly what and how happened. As she stated her symptoms and answered my questions, I concluded that it was a cardiac event, of ischemic nature, but of mild intensity. I told her that it wasn’t your stomach playing with you, but it is your heart. Next morning she reported to a cardiologist in Sargodha and her ECG revealed that she had something between angina and ischemic heart disease. She returned with a prescription and advice from doctor to get her blood complete picture as well as lipid profile done.
Her test reports lacked hemoglobin estimation but she reported high cholesterol and triglycerides. A mother of three young children, she was immediately put on an appropriate drug regime. Her cardiologist advised me to get her angiography done. I talked to my friend Dr Muhammad Saleem, who works in Punjab Institute of Cardiology, Lahore (PIC) as trainee for fellowship in cardiology. He advised me to plan her checkup in PIC where he will personally take care of her. Feeling relaxed for getting the subscription, they didn’t visit PIC immediately, until after a week of her 2nd visit, she had the same condition again. This alarmed everyone. Lahore being a far city, an appointment with a famous cardiologist in Chenab Nagar was fixed where they took her exercise tolerance test, which again showed ischemia on exertion. Angiography was done on the day I took my flight for France. Nothing abnormal was found, except anemia. She is on cardiac as well as anemia prescription right now.
The story starts here. Had I planned her checkup from PIC at that time, she would have had taken the same medicine that killed over 70 people to-date and that without any, any cardiac illness. After arriving back in France, when I saw the news reports of people dying from those medicines, due to failure of clotting mechanism of their blood, I felt my forehead sweating. I ran away from imagining what would have had happened next. She lives in countryside and would be certainly unaware of the tragedy happened in Lahore. Well, I imagine it is no good to tell her the same. I let her correct her anemia first.
But the question is, what about those 70 people who lost their lives? Where is the health ministry? Where is government? Where is justice? Will a newspaper ad heal their families’ wounds? Would it have healed mine if……
I listened to one of the grieved widows of a person who died of the same medicine. I cried buckets while listening to her, feeling myself in her unfortunate position…….
Last year when I started my blog, I wrote a post about people killed in Hasan Shah Khel terrorist attack. Then I also wrote about Bhopal gas victims. I don’t know how many posts I will write until justice will be done, and the manufacturer of those drugs will be made to pay for his terrorist negligence. There is no precedent like this in my unfortunate land. So I have my reasons to be pessimistic. Yes you read it right, PESSIMISTIC…….

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