Kolkata runs out of morphine; crisis for cancer patients

April 28th, 2008 - 1:18 pm ICT by admin  

Kolkata, April 28 (IANS) Kolkata has been since January facing a shortage of morphine, which is essential for cancer patients, as suppliers are not stocking the cheap pain reliever due to low profits, an official said Monday. West Bengal Director of Health Services Sanchita Bakshi told IANS: “We are facing severe morphine crisis. It’s mainly because of the low profit suppliers get from the drug.

“But they are forgetting that this drug, unlike several others, is not meant for earning profit. Morphine is the cheapest effective sedative for cancer, kidney stones and severe backache. Other sedatives are 10 times more expensive,” Bakshi added.

Asif Khan, a wholesale dealer, said: “A strip of 10 morphine tablets of 10 mg each fetches a profit of only Rs.5. Moreover, retailers or wholesalers have to get the permission of the excise department every time the cancer institutes place a new supply order.

“We even have to submit detailed records of the buyers to the excise department. Why should we take so much trouble for such less profit?”

While the suppliers are counting their profits, stocks at major cancer hospitals in the city have dried up.

“We exhausted our stock of morphine last month. Terminally ill patients are being given substitute painkillers. But these drugs are not as effective as morphine,” said Saroj Gupta, director of Cancer Centre Welfare Home and Research Institute.

About 12,000 cancer cases are reported every year in Kolkata, regarded as the only city where effective cancer treatment is available in eastern India.

When asked what is being done to solve the morphine crises, Public Health Engineering Minister Anarul Haque said: “We are looking into the matter.”

According to surgical oncologist Gautam Mukherjee, about two-thirds of all cancer patients need morphine.

“Alternative drugs are so expensive that they are beyond the common man’s reach. If this crisis continues then most of the patients will have no option but to bear severe pain,” Mukherjee said.

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