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No Relief From Pain For Cancer Patients

Times of India
17 September 2010
Hyderabad, India

Lack of awareness of palliative care and drugs prolongs the agony
There are an estimated 5 lakh patients suffering from cancer in the state and more than half a dozen hospitals dedicated to their care. Yet, a majority of these patients suffer excruciating pain and lead a poor quality of life since ‘pain management’ as a specialty is conspicuously missing from most major hospitals. Palliative care, the specialty of relieving pain, is incidentally available at only one facility – MNJ Cancer Hospital.

No Relief From Pain For Cancer Patients
With September being observed as ‘Pain Awareness Month’, doctors say severe pain is a common symptom among cancer patients, particularly during the last stages of the disease (during phase 3 and 4). But there is no awareness among the patients and even doctors on pain relief methods, they say.

In Hyderabad, efforts are being made by some doctors and non–governmental organisations (NGOs) to float a foundation for cancer patients on the lines of Pallium India, a foundation started by oncologist Dr Raj Gopal to spread awareness among the patients on pain management. Due to his efforts, nearly 200 palliative care centres were opened in Kerala.

Doctors involving themselves with this initiative say they will be holding various awareness programmes and are already training several medical practitioners in palliative care. The doctors will also hold a ‘Pallative Care Day’ next month at MNJ Cancer Hospital. They said they will hold similar awareness programmes at district levels and even launch a helpline for those suffering from acute pain.

The bigger challenge, however, is to bring about better mobility of pain–relieving drugs. “Only 5 to 10 per cent of the cancer patients can afford to purchase cancer pain relief drugs. But even those who can afford are unable to buy due to restrictions on the sale of these drugs as they fall under Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS),’’ said R Udaya Bhaskar, assistant director of Drugs Control Administration and also secretary general of All India Drug Control Officers Confederation.

In most cases, only hospitals have the license to sell these drugs such as morphine. “Transport permits have to be simplified on the cancer drugs and pain relief drugs. Due to current restrictions, not even 20 per cent of the drugs are available to the patients,’’ Udaya Bhaskar said.

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