With the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, Amendment Bill hanging in the Parliament, pain and palliative care experts have called upon the Government to ensure its passage during the ensuing winter session.
The Indian Association of Palliative Care (IAPC) that has spearheaded institutionalisation of pain and palliative care in the hospitals and medical streams in the country has launched a campaign to sensitise and motivate the Ministers, MPs across all parties to take up the issue so that it “does not get lost in the mass of items”.
At least a million people with cancer and at least the same number of people with other diseases will benefit from the Amendment of the Act that aims at simplifying the laws to make opoid analgesics like morphine easily available to them, the Association has stated.
Patients with severe pain in India are not able to get opoid medicines for pain relief because of the stringent NDPS rules that make it difficult for hospitals to store and dispense the substances meant for medical use.
While the licensing regimen makes the process time consuming, hospitals are also wary of stocking opoid medicines in order to avoid legal hassles.
Under the existing NDPS Act, opoids like oral morphine is available to registered medical institutions (RMIs) only.
In most states barring some like Odisha and Maharashtra, they have to obtain licences from different departments like Excise, Drugs Control, Health etc.
The licences are for very short period and by the time they actually lay hand on the medicines, the permit period is almost on the verge of lapsing.
Thus, they buy very small quality as a result of which deserving patients are deprived of the highly effective pain relief medications, former IAPC president and head of Anaesthesiology, Pain and Palliative Care at AIIMS Bhubaneswar, Prof Sukdev Nayak said.
In Odisha, AIIMS and Acharya Harihar Regional Cancer Centre are the only RMIs while some other hospitals like SUM Hospital and Apollo have the permission to dispense oral morphine to patients.
But delay in issuing permits has been a bane for the hospitals as they are without stock for most of the time.
“The Amendments seek to simplify the procedures and make morphine easily available to the hospitals so that the patients can benefit.
In India, majority of the cancer patients are detected late in terminal stages where pain and palliative care is the most important intervention.
By making highly effective and affordable options available, we will be doing great service to such people”, Nayak said.