Lack of morphine add to patient woes

On the eve of the Parliament’s Winter Session, doctors are eagerly waiting for the House to pass a legislation that will ensure easy availability of pain-relieving medicine morphine, across the country for cancer patients who have to withstand unbearable pain because of the ailment.

The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Amendment) Bill, 2011 will aid doctors and hospital to procure morphine more easily for patients.

In India, there are approximately 28 lakh cancer cases at any time and at least five lakh cancer deaths per year. More than 10 lakh cancer patients every year are estimated to be suffering from moderate to severe pain.

“But with the exception of 14 states, including Delhi, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Tripura and Jammu and Kashmir, procurement of morphine is so cumbersome for doctors and hospitals, they tend to avoid it. As a result patients suffer,” Sushma Bhatnagar, professor and head of anaesthesiology and palliative medicine at All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi told Deccan Herald.

A section of doctors on Wednesday submitted a memorandum to the prime minister seeking his intervention to pass the legislation. They also met the Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Shukla who said the bill was high on priority.The bill was introduced in September, 2011 by the Ministry of Finance, which is piloting it. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance gave its comments in March, 2012.

“Under the existing law, hospitals have to take as many as five permits from five departments in the state to procure morphine. As these permits come with a validity date, there are times when the validity of the first licence expires by the time the hospital acquire all the five licences,” said M R Rajagopal, director of Trivandrum Institute of Palliative Sciences.

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