ISLAMABAD -  The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed that the prices of coronary stents should be regulated.

The court also directed the chief executive officer of the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap) to clear all the applications pending for the registration of stents [suppliers].

A three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, was hearing suo motu on implantation of fake stents.

The chief justice clarified that the proceedings on stents should not create panic [among public] and they would not decide anything in haste. He said that they were examining what should be done for the heart patients.

The media should not create panic, “otherwise, we might pass an order” barring the media from airing or publishing unconfirmed reports and baseless assertions on the issue, he said.

The AAG said that the Punjab and Sindh governments had formed commissions regarding the matter.

Justice Saqib said, “Do not make it a regional issue, this is national issue.”

Additional Attorney-General (AAG) Waqar Rana presented report of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on the matter of fake stents.

He said that under Section 3, Clause G(7), of the Drug Regulatory Act, 1976, the stents did not fall in the category of drugs. However, a notification was issued on December 12, 2009 after which it was considered a drug.

Rana further informed the court that another notification was issued wherein August 31, 2010 was given as the cut-off date for stents registration. The Medicine Importer Society, however, challenged this notification in the Lahore High Court, which is pending, he added.

Rana said that around 55 [companies supplying] stents were registered with the Drap, adding there were 68 types of stents, however there were three main categories.

First type is ‘bare metal’, which is of type-two stainless steel and chromium metal. Second category of stent is drug-eluted and the third is bio-observer, he told the court.

Rana informed the court that the stents were approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), USA.

Drap CEO Dr Muhammad Aslam informed the court that the registration process had been relaxed, adding, out of 50 [suppliers of] stents they had registered 13, while 37 would be registered by June.

AAG Rana informed the court that so far there was no mechanism to determine the stent price and people use those wherever kind of stents suits them.

The chief justice told the CEO that the price of stents should be regulated, adding it was no problem for those who could afford but the poor had to suffer in absence of any price regulation mechanism.

Justice Saqib said that at the time of heart surgery the cardiologists had to take prompt decision as to which stent should be implanted. He said that the purpose of the suo motu was that the heart patients get the right medicines and devices at affordable price.

Ministry of Health and Services and the FIA have been ordered to file a report in 10 days on the matter of implantation of fake stents.

Meanwhile, hearing a separate case pertaining to purchase of medicines at a high rate by Polyclinic Hospital administration, the chief justice remarked that the functions of the executive could not be taken over by the court but “if they are absurd then the court can examine them”.