Pakistan Radiation Services: Pioneer in GAMMA Sterilization

By Minhas, Mohammad Riaz | Economic Review, August 1997 | Go to article overview

Pakistan Radiation Services: Pioneer in GAMMA Sterilization


Minhas, Mohammad Riaz, Economic Review


Realizing the importance and potential of gamma irradiation technology and the benefits the medical and pharmaceutical industries would get out of it, it was decided by Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission to establish such a facility under the name of Pakistan Radiation Services, briefly known as PARAS, for the sterilization of medical disposable products and pharmaceuticals. Gamma sterilization is one of the many peaceful uses of atomic energy. The Plant, a unit of Al-Technique Corporation of Pakistan - a subsidiary of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, is located at the 18th Kilometer, Multan Road, Lahore.

The plant went into operation ten years ago in July 1987. To date it has sterilized more than one million cubic ft. of medical products and pharmaceuticals. Our "Ten years of operation" celebrations have incidentally coincided with the Golden Jubilee Celebrations of Pakistan Independence.

Each year an estimated 10 million cubic meters of Medical and Pharmaceutical products are sterilized world wide. For many years, heat in the form of steam has been used as a low cost and effective means of achieving sterilization but not all products are amenable to steam sterilization. Medical device manufacturers have adopted other methods of sterilization such as ethylene oxide gas and gamma rays. Sterilization with gamma radiation is considered to be the most simple, efficient and reliable method for achieving high degree of sterility. It is considered to be the safest and most advanced sterilization process. The process can be carried out on the finally packed and sealed products and is applicable to heat sensitive and ethylene oxide incompatible materials. It is the key to economical sterility in medical practices.

The simple and safe process involves the exposure of products to Cobalt-60 radiations for a predetermined period of time so as to expose the product to a prescribed minimum dose of radiation which results in the highest degree of sterilization.

There are now nearly 200 gamma irradiation plants around the world. Most of them are located in the developed countries, particularly in Europe and North America, to sterilize mass produced medical products. Their market share has grown from 27 per cent in 1989 to more than 40 per cent in 1993 and is continuously rising. It has a history of successful operation stretching back to more than 40 years and the cost is now comparable to Ethylene Oxide.

Shortly after the discovery of X-rays in 1895 it was also known about the bacterial killing properties of ionizing radiation. The scientists started working on utilization of the characteristics of radiation. Radiation sterilization of medical products began in USA in 1956. The first commercial radiation sterilization was started in 1958 by the Danish AEC, in the early 60's in Russia, Australia, England & France followed by other countries. Out of total production of Cobalt-60 in the world, which is 45 Mega curies, 80 per cent is produced in Canada and the rest by USA, England, Russia, China etc. The objectives of establishing gamma irradiation plant in Pakistan were as under:-

1) To introduce a new technique for sterilization of locally manufactured medical products and pharmaceuticals.

2) To improve health standards in hospitals.

3) To encourage the growth of medical product industries specially plastic industry and to decrease the import of such products like syringes, infusion sets, gloves etc., to save foreign exchange.

4) To contribute towards national economy in terms of reduction of foreign dependency. Radiation processing also plays an important role in the international trade when items imported or exported should be free of bacteria.

5) With the availability of gamma sterilization facility in Pakistan, small scale entrepreneurs can set up manufacturing units of medical disposable products and get their products sterilized with gamma rays. They will not have to establish their own sterilization facility which is quite expensive. …

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