Global Palliative Care Community Highlights

2015; Volume 16, No 5, May

Global Palliative Care Community Highlights – the column that brings you initiatives from across the world

Act, amendment and availability – bridging the gaps

Dr. Sushma Bhatnagar, MD, Professor and Head, Department of Pain and Palliative Care, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India, and a member of the IAHPC Board of Directors.

Dr Sushma Bhatnagar
“I am not afraid of cancer but pain”

Pain management has been declared as a ‘Fundamental human right’ and it is critical to avoid pain to allow patients to die with dignity. Yet, more than 90% cancer patients suffer and die in pain.

The mere passing of the amendment of The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS) by the Government of India is not going to make any change to the existing scenario. The challenges are many – this I have realized after coordinating the workshop on ‘Implementation of the National Program on Palliative Care (NPPC) and NDPS Amendment to Improve Access to Opioids’, which was held at the Indian Association for Palliative Care National Conference (IAPCON) 2015 in Hyderabad on 13-15 February 2015, organized by Dr. Gayatri Palat. Attended by drug controllers of 16 states and the health secretary of three states, the workshop received satisfactory representation from cancer centers and pharmaceutical companies, and excellent representation from overseas faculties.

The challenges I perceived:

A multipronged attack aiming to increase availability (by easing the rules), awareness and demystifying the facts is required to curb the rising deficit.

Recommendations from different groups were:

We have to make proper and meticulous guidelines. There is a huge need to take charge and provide leadership at all levels – medical, industry and social. It is a human right and the duty of us all to ensure that no one is denied pain relief due to unavailability of the drugs, or lack of knowledge. We should all strive for the same goals until such time as we achieve our goal of a ‘Pain free India’.

Dr. Sushma Bhatnagar.

Dr Bhatnagar is a member of the Board of Directors of the IAHPC; read her bio here.

Editor’s note: A recent article on the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, published in the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics, is discussed in this month’s Media Watch column.

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