Already faced with the ephedrine case, another controlled substance-related scandal is shaping up against Makhdoom Shahabuddin.
Records from the devolved federal health ministry indicate that Shahabuddin, during his tenure as health minister, also allowed Danas Pharmaceutical to import 5,000kg of dextropropoxyphene, a controlled substance used in the manufacture of the medical drug darvon, from India in 2010, reliable sources told The Express Tribune.
Danas Pharmaceutical is also one of the two pharmaceutical companies alleged to have benefitted from the ephedrine scandal.
According to the devolved health ministry’s record, Imran Gilani, a partner of Danas Pharmaceutical Islamabad with ties to the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), submitted a written request to Shahabuddin in 2010, seeking a no objection certificate (NOC) for the import of 5,000kg of dextropropoxyphene from India. Shahabuddin is said to have accepted Gilani’s request forthwith; in his capacity as a health minister, he is alleged to have directed then director general Health Asad Hafeez to issue the NOC in clear violation of the 1976 Drug Act.
According to the Drug Act, dextropropoxyphene’s one time quota cannot exceed 500kg since, like ephedrine, chances of its misuse are high.
Danas Pharmaceutical, in its request, maintained the 5,000kg dextropropoxyphene quota was intended for flood victims. Industry experts, however, say this was just an excuse to obtain permission for the import of the controlled substance which could later be used to manufacture addictive pills.
In early 2011, the health secretary, on Shahabuddin’s direction, reinstated the ban on dextropropoxyphene import.
The ban orders, however, contained special instructions for Danas Pharmaceutical to dispose the 5,000kg quota it had imported. On receipt of the ban orders, Imran Gilani sought permission on behalf of the company to use the quota. A formal request was then submitted to the health secretary, who subsequently constituted a committee to look into the issue and suggest appropriate measures. Despite numerous meetings with a team from Danas Pharmaceutical, however, the committee could not reach a final decision.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 22nd, 2012.