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Show one blood test kit, supply another

Calcutta, Oct. 22: The samples were fine, but the final consignments were flawed.

Govind Sarda’s company had used genuine blood-test kits as a decoy to hoodwink the government into handing it the supply contract, health officials and police say.

“The samples they sent for testing were cleared by the expert committee as there was nothing wrong with them. But kits in the final consignments were past their use-by dates,” a police officer said.

Fears have been expressed that thousands of units of contaminated blood could have been given to recipients as the faulty kits might have failed to detect infections.

A member of the Sarda family who called up The Telegraph denied the allegations, but revealed Monozyme India had bagged the contract by quoting Rs 20 for a kit against its rivals’ Rs 60-70.

Monozyme had won the contract in December 2004 after the West Bengal State AIDS Control and Prevention Society floated the tenders.

Since then, the company has supplied lakhs of kits meant for detecting infections — such as HIV, Hepatitis B or C — in collected blood.

Till August 2006, it had supplied the government over 140,000 kits for testing Hepatitis B and C, health officials said.

The Sarda family member, however, claimed that Monozyme got the contract only in November 2005 and had supplied only about 1,000 kits.

“We started supplying in Bengal in January 2006. The order was renewed a few months later. We have supplied around 1,000 kits to WBSACPS, none of which had passed the expiry date,” said the caller on condition of anonymity.

“We got the licence for the kits in mid-2005, and the first consignment was imported about 18 months ago. These kits have a shelf life of two years; so the question of supplying kits past their use-by date doesn’t arise.”

But investigating officers said they had seized nearly 100,000 kits supplied by Monozyme that had passed their expiry dates. “Some of the kits were supplied way back in 2005,” an officer said.

The police have revealed that the cartons in which the kits came mention 2007 as the expiry date, but the boxes inside simply state “005”. The use-by date on the test pouches inside the boxes is either missing or smudged.

Investigators are probing how the faulty kits cleared screenings at the Central Blood Bank in Maniktala and the six other centres from where blood is distributed.

“Since the WBSACPS had cleared the kits, we used them in good faith,” an official at a distribution centre said.

Health department officials, however, said checking the use-by date is standard practice.

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