Senate asks NAFDAC to suspend use of Avastin injection in Nigeria as the cancer treatment drug is causing blindness

The Nigerian Senate has asked the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) to “suspend forthwith” the use of Avastine injections in the country. The call was made after the lawmakers deliberated on a motion in a case of 10 patients who went blind after administration of the injection.

The motion was sponsored by Aishatu Dahiru and seven other senators. Avastin is a drug used to treat wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD). It is also used to treat diabetic eye disease and other problems of the retina. It is injected into the eye to help slow vision loss from these diseases. 

In her lead debate, Ms Dahiru noted that Avastin injection meant for the treatment of Cancer was being used at the National Eye Centre, Kaduna, for eye treatment. She explained that 10 patients visited the Centre in Kaduna on May 28 unaided to complain of poor eyesight due to cataract and other minor ailments. But shockingly, the lawmaker said the patients went blind after taking an eye injection at the centre. 

She also said The New York Times on August 31, 2011, had reported that the same Avastin Injection, which was originally meant for cancer treatment, had caused blindness when applied for eye treatment. According to her, investigation confirmed that the 10 patients went blind after they were given Russian-made Avastin injection, resulting to the patients being affected in both eyes, while the remaining six victims lost one eye each.

“After the unfortunate incident, NAFDAC waded in and took the drug for a test but so far the result is still awaited. If this can happen in a government medical facility like the National Eye Centre, Kaduna, then it should be a matter of urgent national interest to look into the supplies of drugs in this country with emphasis on what our hospitals administer, to whom, preservation and expiration.

“The victims were still under the care of the hospital as at 2nd July, 2019 (thirty-three days after the incident) with little or no improvement. The harrowing experience of the victims are disheartening and a cause of worry by all and sundry.

Therefore, mechanisms must be put in place to checkmate the anomalies in our health sector with the aim of correcting them and avoiding future recurrence,” she said.

Lawmakers thereafter took turns to condemn the use of the injection and call for The Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, constituted a seven-member ad-hoc committee to carry out a holistic investigation on the use of the Avastin injection for the purpose of eye treatment.   
The committee will be chaired by Matthew Uroghide. Other members are Ibrahim Oloriegbe, Sabi Abdullahi, and Chimaroke Nnamani. Others are Aishatu Dahiru, Ajayi Borrofice and Bala Na’Allah. 

The Senate urged the Federal Ministry of Health and other relevant agencies to constantly conduct a post-market surveillance to determine the efficacy of all drugs. It also urged NAFDAC to make public the result of their test on the said injection and mandated the relevant authorities to compensate the victims and bring to book the practitioners found wanting.

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