Ensure availability of pain medication, FG told

Towards a pain-free world, the Federal Government has been called on to ensure that opioids necessary for the control of moderate to severe pain are always available.

Professor Simbo Amanor-Boadu, Head, Hospice and Palliative care Department, University College Hospital (UCH), gave the call at a media chat by the hospital to mark the 2016 World Hospice and Palliative Care Day.

Amanor-Boadu stated that 90 per cent of people living with life-threatening illnesses such as cancer, chronic heart, kidney and liver diseases and sickle cell anaemia at some time of their illness have pain which impact negatively on their quality of life.

The expert, stating that the major focus of palliative care was to improve the quality of life of these patients’ life-threatening illnesses, said towards the end of their life, more than 50 per cent of them will have severe pain that will require to be relieved.

The don, who described opioids like morphine as major medications in the management of moderate and severe pain, said pain relief is exceptionally poor in developing countries, Nigeria inclusive.

According to her, “A survey of pain management in Nigeria between 2012 and 2013 by Treat The Pain Organisation stated that of the 71,571 patients dying from cancer, 80 per cent had moderate to severe pain. In that period, Nigeria imported only enough medication to treat 493 people. Living and dying in pain does not have to happen.”

Even as the hospital has been providing palliative care to 1200 patients alone this year, she appealed to Nigerians for donation and funding in order that the service could be extended to others outside the hospital.

Earlier, UCH’s Chairman, Medical Advisory Committee, Dr Adefemi Afolabi stated that breast cancer had remained a challenge because patients mostly report late to the hospital.

Although awareness on breast cancer is increasing in the community, he said its cost of treatment was still high and as such the need for government to make cancer treatment part of the health insurance scheme.

According to Afolabi, an increased investment in cancer treatment was important to also curtail medical tourism.

He stated, “this is one way the government could instill confidence into Nigerians that cancer is not a death sentence.”

Afolabi also urged for increased media support for early cancer detection, declaring the earlier a cancer is detected, the better its treatment outcome.

Meanwhile, UCH’s Chief Medical Director, Professor Temitope Alonge stressed the need for a monitoring mechanism to check abuse of opioids among relative of patients.

In ensuring continuous availability of opioids for pain management in people living with life-threatening illnesses he suggested Nigeria also going to production of opioids tablets like India.

Having to rely on its importation when more complex drugs are produced in Nigeria, he said was not good, adding “we can encourage our pharmacognosy department to do it. Some herbs have opioid agonistic activity, whose analgesic effect is almost as strong as morphine.”