Published on: August 19, 2010

Pain relief is often taken for granted in the Western world, but in about 150 countries the use of morphine is severely restricted, says Tatum Anderson in British Medical Journal, “The politics of pain“.

She investigates how this has come about, and what steps are being taken to stop patients living and dying in extreme pain.

Here is part of what she says about India in the article:

India may be one of the world’s largest legitimate opium growers, but only about 0.4% of the population in need of opioids for pain relief get them, according to figures from 2007.

Restrictions result from an attempt to tackle the growing drugs trade. In 1985 the government passed a law that required pharmacies to have multiple licences from different agencies before they could stock and dispense morphine. The drug then disappeared from the shelves and doctors stopped prescribing it.

Realising the inadvertent consequences of its law, the government then allowed India’s states to amend rules to allow hospices to stock and dispense morphine without complex licensing. The problem is, only a few states have chosen to do so. And the new rules do not affect the onerous pharmacy licensing system, which still applies.

Full text is available if you have access to BMJ here…

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