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Opioids in plenty for addicts in Punjab, not for cancer patients

March 31, 2018 03:14 PM

Punjab News Express/Verinder Sareen
NAWANSHAHR: Drugs, especially opioids, may be available in plenty in the state and the country for the addicts but it is very hard to get them if you genuinely need them in cases of severe illnesses like cancer. Even being an elected representative like Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) is not going to help you either.

Hoshiarpur MLA Sunder Sham Arora learnt this bitter truth after his wife was diagnosed with terminal stage of cancer and he had to run from pharmacy to pharmacy to get morphine injections to lessen her pain and enable her to “leave this world with some comfort and dignity”.

Arora who lost his wife to the dreaded disease in early January this year, is so upset with the situation that today he shot off a letter to PM Narendra Modi (copy is with this correspondent) demanding easy availability of drugs like morphine for cancer patients like his wife.

He has brought to the notice of the PM that opioids like morphine are often prescribed by the doctors to terminally ill cancer patients to ease their pain. “However, only 2 (two) percent of the cancer patients are getting them, ” said the MLA in his communiqué.

The MLA, in his letter, has held the amendments in the NDPS Act in 2013 as responsible for the present delporable situation as now the sole mandate to make opioid regulations rests with the Government of India. He said that now “to store and sell opioids like morphine, licenses have to be taken from different departments as storage and sale of opioids comes under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS) – 1985.

Arora in his letter has even quoted India’s renowned oncologist Sidhartha Mukherjee who is reportedly strongly in favour of easy access of opioids for terminally ill cancer patients in the country so as to ease their pain. Mukherjee had “seen the agony of his own father, a cancer patient”, said the MLA in his letter while urging the PM to make requisite amendments in the NDPS Act for the convenience of last stage cancer patients.

Endorsing MLA’s views, Dr Ajay Bagga, a former civil surgeon, said that in order to store and sell opioids like morphine, in some states, licenses are required to be procured from as many as six departments “making the whole process a very cumbersome procedure”. “And interestingly, morphine is the cheapest and safest of all pain-relieving medicines for cancer patients, ” he said. The former civil surgeon advocated making available morphine in government hospitals for terminally ill cancer patients on the recommendations of a cancer specialist to ease the situation. But then cancer treatment is hardly available in any of the government hospitals in Punjab.

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