Why was Dr Riazuddin labelled a thief for helping Pakistan?

Published: November 8, 2012

Corrupt bureaucrats of this nation are ever ready to present these able minds with the same fate presented to Dr. Riazuddin. PHOTO: FILE

Interferon is a drug of choice for hepatitis C and a large number of people are using it. Hepatitis C has been spreading like an epidemic in Pakistan due to several reasons, some of which include unhygienic water supplied by municipal organisations, using contaminated surgical blades by barbers and unsafe sexual practices.

Due to poor financial conditions of the Pakistani people and a soaring increase in the prices of commodities almost on a daily basis, it is becoming next to impossible for the common man to purchase quality medicines. In such a situation, the country must provide alternatives to its people by providing cheap but effective medicines.

This can only be possible if we start producing drugs and their raw materials locally, which we have not done since the creation of Pakistan. Still relying on raw materials provided by India and China, we pay for material which becomes costly whence taxed and imported on reaching Pakistan.

For industries, the pragmatic stance would be to give preference to cheap raw material to maintain a high profit margin.

Unfortunately, our universities have produced a number of PhDs but their research is not related to the problems of the local industries or the common people of Pakistan. Due to this, a large number of renowned educationalists and academicians are critical of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) policy of investing billions of rupees and producing nothing concrete in return.

A few days ago, I came across a daily newspaper that stated that the former director of the Centre of Excellence in Molecular Biology (CEMB) of the Centre of Applied Molecular Biology (CAMB), Dr Riazuddin, had developed a low cost interferon injection used to cure hepatitis C and proposed to sell it for Rs70 per injection – almost 100% below the prevailing market price.

However, the Ministry of Science and Technology, instead of encouraging, microbiologist Dr Sheikh Riazuddin for manufacturing a quality drug like interferon at a low cost, initiated an inquiry against him through the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA). Not only was his name put on the Exit Control List (ECL), an unjust inquiry had also been initiated against him by the Ministry of Health. These people were backed by power full multinational companies, importing expensive interferon from abroad hence, making billions of rupees from the poor people of this country.

Irfan Nadeem, former secretary of the Ministry of Science and Technology was the unfortunate culprit behind the entire scam. Having misguided the National Assembly Standing Committee on Health on the subject, he was successful in getting the drug banned. Concurrently, he lay undue charges of embezzlement of funds and use of government funds for personal gains against Dr Riazuddin.

Unfortunately for him and those partnering with him, the FIA cleared Dr Riaz of all charges and submitted a report in favour of Dr Riaz instead, concluding the inquiry. On the flip side, the FIA has now recommended an initiation of a separate enquiry into the loss of 100,000 interferon injections worth of Rs7 million, as well as the loss of raw material relating to interferon worth of Rs1 million.

This is the crux of problems with the scientific industry in Pakistan. At any point that a Pakistani scientist tries to initiate a research project that may actually prove to be beneficial to the poorer people of this country, the darker vested interests prop up to bulldoze any such ventures. This was not the first time a Pakistani scientist was belittled and ridiculed for having done remarkably well in their field of practice. Corrupt bureaucrats of this nation are ever ready to present these able minds with the same fate presented to Dr Riazuddin. This industry fails to flourish, and this is due to the undue influence from bureaucrats who are heavily bribed by multinational companies that are bent on discouraging local production for anything that may cause a dent in their profit margins.

Dr Riaz should be honoured and not disgraced for his efforts for this country, but instead we allow him to be ridiculed? Why would any local scientist want to work for the benefit of the country if every time they try, they know they will be labelled thieves?

Only when Pakistan stands up against these corrupt individuals and makes an example of them, by sentencing them to life imprisonment for mutiny against the country, will the local industries in Pakistan start flourishing. Statistics provide that Pakistan imports Rs4 billion worth of interferon every year. The multinational pharmaceutical companies involved in monopolising the market should be heavily fined and even banned from entering the Pakistani market.

Mohammad Hassan

Mohammad Hassan

A teacher at the Gandhara College of Pharmacy, with an interest in heath, education, politics and current affairs.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • http://www.exceptionalmovies.blogspot.com rana

    Absolutely on spot; until and unless we don’t encourage local industry and people like Dr. Riazuddin by discouraging these bribed politicians, we won’t able to move forward. Recommend

  • Rehan Ahmad

    I’m in total agreement with the writer. I in fact was shocked when I read the whole thing in newspaper couple of weeks ago. As a case of cured HCV positive case, I understand how painful the treatment is, how much disturbance does it cause among family members and side effects of the treatment on top of paying almost PKR 100,000/- in account of 72 injections of Interferon, ribazole over a period of six months.

    I know government of Pakistan simply won’t invest anything for research to ease the suffering, but they should have at least thought about the financial condition of Pakistani people. All I would wish here for all these policy makers to have HCV with insufficient funds to get them cured to see how one feels when they’re helpless on financial grounds.

    Please let Pakistanis live a healthy life. As Pakistani govt can’t do anything to improve things, they have no right to stop such researches that are being operated on one’s personal expense. Ridiculing the scientists should be considered a crime which if proved certainly should result in life imprisonment.

    I wonder why media was silent when this all was taking place. If they can’t report such incidents on time we’re better without them. God bless Pakistani people. Recommend

  • Parvez

    A real eye opener, this one. Only problem is the eyes it will open will fret and fume and then go to sleep. This incident smacks completely of not just bad governance but criminal governance and every one knows who is to blame.Recommend

  • shuja ul islam

    its what we do..its Pakistan’s thing..discourage the people who do selfless things for the country..there is a long list of names for such people..!!Recommend

  • http://tribune.com p r sharma

    There can not be two opinion in not supporting the local research in any sector and the researcher .

    However the author has not given the views and the explanation given by Dr, Riajuddin. ,
    Has Dr, claimed the development of a product . An article based on the news clip in a news paper needs to be verified of the facts .
    The article does not give any insight in the matter and inadequate information is hindrance to form a view.Recommend

  • Pro Truth

    the crux is corruption – in a country where 10000 medicine licenses were issued in one single day, a cheaper alternative can disturb the medicine mafia! people are ended up paying through nose or just die. Many with fake medicines. All generic medicines should be made compulsary to be manufactures royality free. all it requires a sincere will to do things right for people of Pakistan. We need to have sincere people elected!

    Vote for change and elect sincere and nice people who can take this nation forward!Recommend

  • http://- Abid P Khan

    The author has succinctly pointed out one of the major reasons for brain drain. These persons have no difficulty shining out in their host countries. Running away from problems at home is not the leitmotif in their stories. Recommend

  • Helen

    Hepatitis C CANNOT be transmitted by dirty water. It can only be transmitted by blood.

    However, Hepatitis A can be transmitted by dirty water.Recommend

  • https://twitter.com/Pugnate Noman Ansari

    Umm… what evidence are you basing any of these views on? I am not saying you are wrong… but this seems like pure conjecture.

    Of course innovation to ‘help Pakistanis’ shouldn’t be discouraged, but who knows? I leave you with two words: Water Car. Recommend

  • Imran Khan

    Allah help us Recommend

  • HASSAN

    @p r sharma:
    the matter has been discussed in in NATIONAL ASSEMBLY standing committee on health. Its not just a piece paper taken from the news paper. if you are interested in knowing more about it you can take the information from various news paper.Recommend

  • rashid khan

    Interesting!
    A charlatan who claims to power a car with water is appreciated by the media and public but a medico scientist concerned for the sufferings of the poor is dammed for his honest work.
    Has nnyone bothered to investigate the personal holdings of the bureaucrats who have accussed Dr Riaz? Recommend

  • howdoyouknow

    On the other hand in India and around the world, Yusuf Hamied, leader of CIPLA is considered a hero. Here is an extract from WIkiperdia about CIPLA “In February, 2001, Cipla stunned the HIV/AIDS and public health communities by announcing it would make its triple cocktail of antiretroviral drugs available in developing countries for $350 per patient per year, a tiny fraction of the prices prevailing internationally at the time. Ten years later, looking back on the decade of rapid growth in access which ensued, the Journal of the International AIDS Society (IAS) would write:
    Cipla’s dramatic price reduction, which received widespread media attention, hammered the message home that many of the multinational drug companies were abusing their market monopoly in the face of a catastrophic human disaster”.
    Further it states “n May 2012, Cipla made headlines worldwide by slashing prices on several cancer drugs previously priced far out of reach to the vast majority of the world’s population (cancer drugs are generally the most expensive category of pharmaceutical).[15] The Wall Street Journal quoted Cipla chairperson Yusuf Hamied as saying: “We had taken the lead to provide affordable medicine for AIDS and I think the time has now come — 10 years later — when we do a similar thing for cancer.”[16] The revised prices averaged roughly 75% less than the previous ones, and Hamied announced plans to similarly reduce prices on the full range of cancer drugs made by Cipla”.Recommend

  • zainabjaved

    @rashid khan:
    oblah blah blah wow ow ow hi hi hi this z jokeRecommend

  • Hussain Ali

    Very sad, but this our society which does not deserve of such good deeds, Instead, Dr. Riaz should be encouraged and honored for his tremendous contribution in the field of science he has been bothered, teased and also his passion to work for humanity was treated so bad that now he will be thinking what he was doing for these people and what they have done with him. Shame on such bribed and greedy people.Recommend

  • http://tribune.com p r sharma

    @HASSAN:
    ” the matter has been discussed in in NATIONAL ASSEMBLY standing committee on health.”

    I am more interested in the research work done. Normally research work is published in science paper/ journals and discussed in a forum of scientists and not in the assembly. The matter before the members of standing committee of health in Assembly can be relating to the implementation of the program / project relating to health but definitely not related to research.

    Blogger mentioned that Irfan Nadeem , former secretary in the ministry of science & technology misguided the standing committee members and get the drug (i assume the injection said to be developed/ prepared by Dr. Riajuddin to cure Hepatitis C) banned . So far I understand before permitting a drug for human consumption several tests are carried out in reputed laboratories and if not found suitable for use ( say may have side effects or not useful as claimed ) the drug may not get permission for production and sale. It is not termed as banned .
    How one person can influence the scientific tests / trials of the drug . If the drug is really effective it can be challenged and can be tested outside the country.
    Researchers deserve the highest respect as their work will help the mankind but we need to be careful and not to be carried away by emotions. That is why a little verification of the matter with supportive documents / information will attract wider support for Dr. Riajuddin. Recommend

  • Rehan Ahmad

    @ P R Sharma

    Reference to the newspaper clip, the ministry was told that drug is causing mass deaths and therefore was discarded. Now instead of ruining the whole thing Ministry should have showed Dr. Riaz the right track as you suggested that might be correct one.

    Let’s talk about financial loss to Dr. Riaz, if the drugs were made with his own money the entire loss was of 8 million rupees. Could Ministry not prevent such loss, they certainly could have but decided against it. The reason behind such quick decision can most probably be personal interests.

    I wonder why Dr. Riaz did not go to court against that loss to himself and Pakistani nation. A logical reason could be he simply lost interest, had enough with the torture and humiliation he had to face. Furthermore, he was punished by having a ban placed on his exit of the country and his two years salary being forfeited. Let’s place any of us at his place and think how would any of us have reacted in that situation? Does not it appear entire system together is going against a single person? If an expensive research can be wasted at such huge level unnoticed, there certainly can anything be done even if front of judiciary as players appear to be giants. They say life is precious, but it appears money has a prime value and life is nothing as compare to it here in Pakistan.

    Finally, PKR 4 billion is not a minor amount the multinational pharmaceutical companies could ignore easily. There must be at least some role they had played in such loss to the nation. Recommend

  • Maria Muzammil

    This is such an eye opener. For anyone who is trying to go up via hard work and sincerity, there are just too many people with well fed pockets who will go all measures to stop him. Such a let down. Not only Dr. Riaz, but this is an insult to the rights of so many patients who could have benefited from this drug. Recommend

  • MUHAMMADH HASSAN

    dear pr sharma i have personal interest in this matter. The bureaucrats in this country are doing the same since the independence of this country. A person sitting on the chair of section officer (what to talk of a Deputy secretary) can do any without caring for any one else. This is the real problem of this unfortunate country. The government had constituted a high level technical committee under the supervision of renowned scientist Dr Samar Mubarak Man. The said committee has tested the drug in the prestigious laboratories, in Germany reserved for the standardization of drugs which have cleared the drug to be safe and effective for use. Dr Samar has also stated this in the National assembly standing committee and in several TV programs. The mighty bureaucrat had created the problems in spite of all the findings. He did it due the favor which he must have taken from the multinationals.Recommend

  • http://medialinepakistan.com/34011.htm Saad Anwar

    Dr. Riazuddin is one of Pakistan’s top scientists and is widely known theoretical physicists in Pakistan and abroad. But as we know Pakistan is no more safe or beneficial place for the honest people. As seen an example of Abdul Qadeer Khan, Dr.Riazuddin, and many of the other. This is the main reason behind the fact that our youth or we can say that our talented candidates do not want to live in Pakistan and they try to go abroad.Recommend

  • Rehan Ahmad

    From today’s paper

    http://www.express.com.pk/epaper/PoPupwindow.aspx?newsID=1101667488&Issue=NP_LHE&Date=20121112

    Please do go through and investigate yourself if you still don’t trust.Recommend

  • http://tribune.com p r sharma

    @Rehan Ahmad:
    Manufacturing process of injection to cure Hepatitis C too is patented. In case Dr. Riaz was given the permission or had the job to develop the similar generic version of the said injection the drug regulatory Authorities should have get it clinically tested before its human use A medicinal product takes a lot of time, money , energy and research before its final use. In this process there will be trial and error too which is always taken into consideration. There is possibility that research may fail and may not give the desired result and the loss of resources are to be borne without blaming the researcher/ team. If these were the circumstances then Dr, Riaz may not be guilty.
    Another situation may be imagined wherein Dr, Riaz was not authorized/ assigned / permitted for the aforesaid work/development and the amount given was for the import of the injection itself If so the matter deserves to be handled differently. particularly when it has caused some deaths.

    But i feel that genuine and qualified researchers /. scientists deserve better treatment.
    ,Recommend

  • Muhammad Humayun Aziz

    What was the name of the company? Let’s disgrace the pharmaceutical monopoly? and those who involve?Recommend

  • @ PR Sharma

    Why are you so much interested in a negative tone …. as it is a matter of beaureaucratic falure of a nation which has caused a huge loss… while you are demanding the procedure… why don’t U talk to the people concerned on this issue and guide him if appropriate, for the sake of welfare of the humanity… It seem instead U are trying to enjoy the situation………:(Recommend