Cancer Patients All-Around Pakistan Suffer from Morphine Unavailability


by Naba Batool

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According to the latest reports, thousands of cancer patients across the country who are battling cancer continue to face poor treatments because of the absence of morphine, one of the most effective opioids to relieve pain.

Several oncologists have revealed that even the most established healthcare facilities such as the Combined Military Hospital of Pakistan Army. Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital Lahore and Peshawar, Aga Khan University Hospital and Indus Hospital Karachi are facing extreme difficulties in acquiring these opioids which are widely used to relieve the pain during cancer treatment.


Senior oncologists on realizing these shortcomings have advised the families of the patients to arrange morphine on their own. Although this is a head scratcher for the caregivers as both Morphine and Fentanyl are not available at pharmacies and even the designated cancer facilities are unable to get their hands on them.

Dr. Faisal Sultan, former Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health even confirmed this national Morphine crisis. He further went on to comment that the ‘approval process is lengthy’ for even the most established cancer hospitals in Pakistan such as Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital.

He also referred to a recent meeting with the Federal Ministry of Narcotics Control for the Lunch of Opioid Substitution Therapy for Injectable Drug Users in the country. Dr. Faisal said that this topic of cancer treatment with pain control medications also came to the surface. And thus it was decided to streamline the process of acquiring and incorporating medicines for the treatment so that the suffering of the cancer patients can be reduced to a greater context.

Furthermore, pain management experts at the Aga Khan University Hospital also confirmed that oral morphine had not been given to patients since March, 2021. Only injectable morphine was available and that too in limited quantities.

Dr. Muhammad Atif Waqar, Section Head of Palliative Medicine, Department of Oncology at AKUH said that "Given the extremely limited quantity of injectable morphine available, its use has to be prioritized in the operating theatres where small doses and single-use of opioid medication can yield benefits for the majority of patients undergoing surgical procedures.”