Morphine shortage deepens the pain for cancer patients
The Kenya Harmonised Health Facility Assessment report for 2018/19 indicates that cancer patients have to buy their own morphine or take the less effective paracetamols that are mostly available in both public and private hospitals across the country.7 Mar 2020
Only one in ten cancer patients in public hospitals has access to morphine, the essential pain control drug that is recommended for patients in palliative care, a new survey by the Ministry of Health has revealed.
The Kenya Harmonised Health Facility Assessment report for 2018/19 indicates that cancer patients have to buy their own morphine or take the less effective paracetamols that are mostly available in both public and private hospitals across the country. The survey ranked the national availability of paracetamol at 77 percent compared to 10 percent for morphine.
Doctors prepare a patient for treatment at Texas Cancer Centre in Nairobi.
Even the few patients who have access to morphine have to contend with irregular supply of the drug as the country lacks systems to ensure regular supply.
For many years, morphine has been on the World Health Organisation (WHO) model list of essential medicines as the strong opioid of choice because of its suitability for management of moderate to severe cancer pain. Pain relief medications are recommended for cancer patients undergoing treatment, especially chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy, or those experiencing pain caused by malignant tumours.
Zipporah Ali, a palliative care doctor and executive director of Kenya Hospices and Palliative Care Association (KEHPCA) says the country has had a morphine stock out since June last year.
“It is a scary period for the patients; the pain is too much to bear and some drugs like Ibuprofen and paracetamol don’t really help,” said Dr Ali.