Mor­phine short­ages hit can­cer pa­tients

Sunday News (Zimbabwe) - - Front Page - Ju­dith Phiri Sun­day News

CAN­CER pa­tients face hard times as there are short­ages of drugs for cu­ra­tive treat­ment in­clud­ing chemo­ther­apy drugs as well as pal­lia­tive care med­i­ca­tion which is used to re­lieve pain, an official has said.

That in­cludes mor­phine, an ef­fec­tive drug that is used to man­age se­vere pain among peo­ple liv­ing with ad­vanced HIV and can­cers in­clud­ing, among oth­ers, breast, cer­vi­cal, bowel, prostate, pan­cre­atic and blood can­cers.

In an in­ter­view, Is­land Hos­pice ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, Ms Bev­er­ley Se­bas­tian said they were ex­pe­ri­enc­ing drug short­ages in­clud­ing mor­phine due to the pre­vail­ing eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion.

“There are short­ages of drugs in the coun­try and it’s not just mor­phine as other pal­lia­tive care drugs in­clud­ing ba­sic pain killers such as parac­eta­mol are not avail­able. It means that our pa­tients are liv­ing in pain.

“We deal with peo­ple

liv­ing with

life threat­en­ing con­di­tions from the point of di­ag­no­sis, th­ese in­clude but are not lim­ited to HIV, multi-drug re­sis­tant TB, de­men­tia and can­cer, hence pain killers are a must have,” said Ms Se­bas­tian.

She nar­rated how the short­age of mor­phine has af­fected one of their pa­tients.

“I am told that due to the mor­phine short­ages a pa­tient at one of our branches in Maron­dera, a 51-year-old woman liv­ing with cer­vi­cal can­cer we have been sup­port­ing for over a year now has started taking her mor­phine every eight to 10 hours as she fears it would run out if she took it every four hours as pre­scribed. As a re­sult she is in agony, and is un­able to eat and sleep.

“This also causes a lot of dis­tress to her fam­ily in­clud­ing her young chil­dren and grand­chil­dren. I am re­ceiv­ing sim­i­lar re­ports from all our branches across Zim­babwe,” she said.

Ms Se­bas­tian also noted that they had en­gaged the Min­istry of Health and

Child Care to as­sist.

“Phar­ma­cies are charg­ing in

US dol­lars which many of our pa­tients do not have ac­cess to. We have been in con­stant com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the Min­istry of Health and Child Care about the sit­u­a­tion and re­cently we met the Deputy Min­is­ter of Health, Dr John Chamunorwa Mang­wiro about this. The min­istry has thus far been very help­ful, how­ever, there is still no mor­phine avail­able yet,” she said.

Pharmaceutical So­ci­ety of Zim­babwe (PSZ) sec­re­tary Mr Pros­per Maphosa said it was not only mor­phine that was in short sup­ply.

“It is not only the short­age of mor­phine but there is a gen­eral dire short­age of most drugs. Over 85 per­cent of all medicines in this coun­try, whether man­u­fac­tured lo­cally or fin­ished prod­ucts are im­ported or have an im­port com­po­nent, hence we hope that we do get pri­ori­ti­sa­tion from the Re­serve Bank of Zim­babwe for as far as al­lo­ca­tion of for­eign cur­rency is con­cerned,” said Mr Maphosa.

Mpilo Cen­tral Hospi­tal clin­i­cal di­rec­tor Dr Sol­wayo Ng­wenya said pa­tients should en­gage their doc­tors for other al­ter­na­tives since there are short­ages of some of the painkillers for can­cer pa­tients.

“Peo­ple are in quite se­ri­ous pain but there are other al­ter­na­tives that they can take which I can not dis­close to the me­dia but they can con­sult their doc­tors who can tell them what to do. Also mor­phine is a dan­ger­ous drug so there is noth­ing that we can do.

“We have to wait for it to be dis­trib­uted from Harare as it is cen­trally con­trolled there.

“We hope since Govern­ment availed funds for drugs peo­ple will be able to get med­i­ca­tion again,” he said.

Re­cently, RBZ al­lo­cated US$9,9 mil­lion for the pur­chase of medicines in a bid to ease drug short­ages and price dis­tor­tions.

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