When the winter session of Parliament begins on December 5, millions of cancer patients hope lawmakers will clear a long-awaited amendment that will allow them easier access to morphine.
Morphine, one of the best known pain-control medicines, is available to barely 1% of all patients suffering from pain arising out of their cancer or HIV/AIDS infection, say experts. "India has 2.4 million cancer patients who need pain relief and another 2.5 million living with HIV. These patients sometimes suffer unbearable pain that is best relieved by morphine," said Thiruvananthapuram-based Dr M R Rajagopal, who is often referred to as the father of palliative care in India.
Last two sessions of the houses failed to take up the amendment to the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985. Dubbing its poor access as a human rights violation, Dr Rajagopal said, "We hope the amendment will be passed this time.''
Morphine is classified as a narcotic under the NDPS Act, resulting in tight restrictions to prevent misuse. The law states that anybody found with 250 grams of morphine without adequate licences could face up to 10 years of rigorous imprisonment.