Duterte painkiller use draws con­cern

Kuwait Times - - NEWS -

Philip­pine Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte’s ad­mis­sion that he used a pow­er­ful painkiller has prompted con­cern about his health, with law­mak­ers urg­ing him yes­ter­day to un­dergo a med­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tion and dis­close the re­sults. Duterte on Mon­day re­vealed that he used to take fen­tanyl, of­ten pre­scribed for can­cer pain and other chronic ail­ments, be­cause of a spinal in­jury from pre­vi­ous mo­tor­cy­cle ac­ci­dents. He how­ever said his doc­tor made him stop us­ing it on learn­ing he was “abus­ing the drug” by us­ing more than the pre­scribed patches.

The fire­brand leader has at­tracted con­tro­versy over his war against sus­pected users of il­le­gal drugs, which has claimed thou­sands of lives, and his in­cen­di­ary lan­guage against the United States and the United Na­tions. Law­mak­ers said Duterte’s re­marks re­vived spec­u­la­tion about his health, in­clud­ing ru­mors dur­ing the elec­tion cam­paign that he suf­fered from can­cer - a claim Duterte re­peat­edly de­nied.

“To end this spec­u­la­tion, it would be bet­ter if his physi­cian ex­plains how the pres­i­dent man­ages the pain that he suf­fers,” Duterte ally con­gress­man Car­los Zarate told AFP. Zarate added that a med­i­cal bul­letin would clar­ify the state of Duterte’s health, as fen­tanyl be­came con­tro­ver­sial af­ter pop leg­end Prince died of an ac­ci­den­tal over­dose of the drug in April. Fen­tanyl, highly po­tent and ad­dic­tive, is es­ti­mated to be up to 100 times stronger than mor­phine. An outspoken Duterte critic, Se­na­tor Leila de Lima, sup­ported Zarate’s call. “It is not just the ill­ness it­self that we should be wor­ried about, but also the im­pact or side ef­fects that the med­i­ca­tions he is tak­ing may have, es­pe­cially on his lu­cid­ity and abil­ity to make de­ci­sions with a clear mind.” At 71, Duterte is the old­est pres­i­dent of the Philip­pines. He has said he suf­fers from daily mi­graine and ail­ments in­clud­ing Buerger’s dis­ease, a car­dio­vas­cu­lar ill­ness char­ac­ter­ized by in­flam­ma­tion of blood ves­sels usu­ally due to smok­ing.

Duterte cited ill health as the rea­son for skip­ping events dur­ing sum­mits abroad. In Cam­bo­dia last week he said he might not even fin­ish his six-year term. An­other critic, Se­na­tor An­to­nio Tril­lanes, told AFP Duterte’s ad­mis­sion that he took more than the pre­scribed fen­tanyl dosage showed he “qual­i­fied as a drug ad­dict”. How­ever Duterte on Satur­day de­nied any ad­dic­tion. “When there’s reg­u­lar­ity, my friend, when you take it and when there’s a mon­key on your back, that’s ad­dic­tion,” he told a BBC re­porter.

Doc­tors said fen­tanyl was reg­u­lated in the Philip­pines, with physi­cians need­ing a li­cense from the drug agency to pre­scribe it. “The ones us­ing (fen­tanyl) are usu­ally peo­ple with har­row­ing pain or ter­mi­nal dis­eases. Doc­tor mon­i­tor­ing man­ages risks of ad­dic­tion,” said Leo Olarte, for­mer pres­i­dent of the Philip­pine Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion. “A med­i­cal bul­letin is good so the pub­lic won’t be rat­tled.”

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