A well-known hospital in Madhya Pradesh that conducts over 1,20,000 eye procedures annually said on Monday it had stopped the use of the Avastin drug that slows the growth of new blood vessels after patients complained of swelling, pain and watery eyes.
The Sadguru Netra Chikitsalaya in Satna district’s Chitrakoot town said in the last eight years it administered over 10,000 injections of the cancer medicine from Swiss drugmaker Roche that’s often used by doctors to treat vision loss.
On Sunday, thirty-two patients in Chitrakoot complained of pain and swelling in their eyes after being treated at the hospital for diabetic retinopathy with the drug whose sale has been put on hold in Gujarat and Telangana after reports of partial loss of sight.
The institute said it had sent vials of Avastin to a high-tech lab in Indore for testing.
“Maybe there is some problem which will be clear once the result of the culture test comes from Indore,” said hospital administrator Dr Elesh Jain. “We are aware of the report that because of Avastin, some people partially lost their vision in Gujarat.”
Avastin is widely prescribed “off label” for age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a debilitating eye ailment, though Roche has said the product is not developed or manufactured to meet intraocular standards.
On whether they suspect there was some problem with a particular batch of the drug, Jain said, “Apart from isolated cases, this is for the first time that so many patients showed a reaction to it.”
On Monday, the state health department constituted a three-member team of medical experts to go to Chitrakoot.
“The team includes two ophthalmologists, Dr RG Chourasia and Dr Arun Trivedi. The third medical expert is Dr Narendra Sharma. Tomorrow being Republic Day, the team will visit Chitrakoot on Wednesday to start its probe,” said chief medical and health officer of Satna Dr SP Garg. “They have to give their report within four days but if need arises, we will extend their time.”
HT had reported earlier that though doctors around the globe use Avastin to treat vision loss, it has not been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for that purpose.
“Following India’s apex drug authority’s notification on monitoring its usage and testing its batches across India, a debate has also started regarding what eye hospitals would use if it was banned, given the fact that most poor people can’t afford the costly alternative injection,” Jain said.
“The basic problem is that one vial of Avastin costs around `25,000. Each vial provides 15 to 30 doses. Patients are administered three to ten doses on an average. So, the cost comes down for each dose. There is an alternative injection, Lucentis, but it costs `25,000 for a single dosage.”
When asked whether the state government had done anything regarding the use of Avastin in eye hospitals and clinics in light of the recent incidents, joint controller of the food and drugs administration Pramod Shukla said he would look into the issue and take a decision accordingly.
Eye surgeon gets notice for botched Barwani surgeries
The health department has issued a notice to an eye surgeon seeking explanation for the botched cataract surgeries at Barwani district hospital last year.
The department has warned Dr RS Palod of action if he failed to respond to the notice within 15 days. It has also decided to initiate a departmental inquiry against him.
In the notice, the department has accused Dr Palod of negligence and not observing the rules, especially for failing to maintain cleanliness at the operation theatre.
Besides being accused of persisting with surgeries despite complications, Dr Palod was found to have not referred patients to other hospitals when some of them complained of infection. The camp was held between November 16 and 23.
In December last year, the Madhya Pradesh health department had suspended Dr Palod and five others for negligence after the botched up cataract surgeries at the district hospital.
Of the 86 patients who underwent cataract surgeries between November 16 and 23, more than 40 of them lost vision.
Taking a serious note of medical negligence, chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had announced that his government would bear the entire cost of treatment of the affected patients.