Nigeria’s health minister announced last week that the country would immediately buy 55 pounds of morphine for the nation’s hospitals and would form an alliance with a new nonprofit organization, theGlobal Access to Pain Relief Initiative.
About 177,000 Nigerians die in pain from cancer or AIDS each year, according to Meg O’Brien, director of the new initiative, but the country has imported only two pounds of morphine since 2007. (Nigeria, which will soon have a population of 170 million, according to the C.I.A. World Factbook, is home to one-fifth of all Africans.)
Dr. C. O. Onyebuchi Chukwu, the health minister, said his cancer specialists and national drug regulators had spent two years debating what to do and had ultimately “decided on a bold plan of action,” including the emergency morphine purchase.
The Pain Relief Initiative was formed in 2010 by the American Cancer Society and the Union for International Cancer Control to address a little-known global health problem: Millions of poor people die in severe pain each year, usually because their countries have drug-trafficking laws that severely limit opiate imports and because doctors are not used to prescribing potentially addictive painkillers. About five billion of the world’s people live in countries without adequate access to pain relief, the initiative estimates.
The initiative will help Nigeria buy the morphine, turn it into usable pill, liquid and injection forms and distribute it, and will also train Nigerian doctors in pain treatment, Dr. O’Brien said.
New York Times
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