Petition seeks improved access to pain relief drugs

New Delhi, Dec 5 : Human Rights Watch and Pallium India Thursday wrote a petition to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, seeking improved availability of pain relief medicines, and to press parliament to approve changes to the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act.

The act makes stringent provisions for the control and regulation of operations relating to narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.

The petition said the amendment bill, which would still include the restrictions to prevent abuse of medicines like morphine, intends to ensure its easy availability to patients suffering from unbearable pain.

"The government has supported the NDPS Amendment Bill. Yet it is essential that the amendment gets your support now to take it forward to a vote in the winter session of parliament," said the petition to the prime minister.

"The passage of the NDPS Amendment Bill will lead to improved access to pain relief medicines and help ease the suffering of millions of patients and their families in India, thereby improving their quality of life," it said.

The bill proposes to amend a few provisions of the act, including the modification of definitions of small and commercial quantity, to include the entire amount of drugs involved instead of only the pure drug part.

"The bill is pending with the Lok Sabha. Given that millions of people in the country are suffering from excruciating pain emanating from serious and life-limiting diseases, including cancer and HIV/AIDS, it is important that the bill is taken up for discussion and passed during the upcoming winter session of parliament," it said.

According to the petition, at least five lakh people die of cancer every year in India.

It also said 25 lakh Indians are living with HIV/AIDS, and more than a million suffer from moderate to severe pain.

"The amendments to the Drug Act could help spare millions of Indians unnecessary suffering from pain," said Pallium India chairman M.R Rajagopal.

"Parliament should put politics aside and do the right thing," he added.

--IANS (Posted on 05-12-2013)

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