LAHORE – Pakistan’s drug regulator announced on Monday that it has temporarily prohibited the use of a cancer medicine marketed by the Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche pending an inquiry, after 12 patients became blind after receiving the drug.

The medicine Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) stated in a statement that health officials in Punjab, the country’s most populated province, had initiated an inquiry into the medicine Avastin, which is approved for usage in Pakistan.

According to Javed Akram, the province’s minister of specialized health, police are investigating two individuals they suspect are drug distributors in the province.

“A high-level committee has been formed to investigate the matter.” “A case has been filed against the distributor and his assistant,” Akram said.

Calls to Roche were made repeatedly. Pakistan’s spokesperson did not respond. According to Roche’s website, Avastin is approved in more than 130 countries, including the United States, to treat various forms of cancer.

According to Alam Sher, the deputy drug controller in Punjab who submitted the police case against the distributors, some firms acquire Avastin and repackage it in lesser dosages to make it more inexpensive for patients.

Because the completed product, or the elements that go into locally created medications, are imported, a severe reduction in the value of the local currency versus the US dollar has raised the price of pharmaceuticals in Pakistan. Many people’s purchasing power has been eroded as a result of record-high inflation.