Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Dying Without Morphine

By RONALD PIANA, NYT, SEPT. 30, 2014

HUNTINGTON, N.Y. — IMAGINE watching a loved one moaning in pain, curled into a fetal ball, pleading for relief. Then imagine that his or her pain could be relieved by an inexpensive drug, but the drug was unavailable.

Each day, about six million terminal cancer patients around the world suffer that fate because they do not have access to morphine, the gold standard of cancer pain control. The World Health Organization has stated that access to pain treatment, including morphine, is an essential human right.

Most suffering because of a lack of morphine is felt in the poorer regions of the globe. About 90 percent of the world’s morphine consumption is in countries in North America and Europe, whereas all the globe’s low- and middle-income countries combined use a mere 6 percent. In sub-Saharan Africa, which has the world’s lowest consumption of morphine and other opioids, 32 of 53 countries have little, if any, access to morphine.

However, this grossly lopsided use of morphine is not about the unequal distribution of wealth. Morphine is easy to produce and costs pennies per dose. But its per-dose profits are also low, which decreases a drug company’s incentive to enter low-income markets in the developing world.

(More here.)

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