Painkillers are plentiful for patients in countries like Canada, but fall well short in the Global South. Global News reports on recent research:
The University of Ottawa researchers condemned the International Narcotics Control Board, a global body that plays a dual role in doling out medicine around the world while policing the flow of illegal drugs.
While Canada offers its ailing patients morphine, oxycodene and fentanyl, other countries from Haiti to Iran, carry out surgeries, amputations and other severe medical procedures without offering any pain relief, says lead researcher Amir Attaran.
“We are neither consuming a ridiculously high or ridiculously low amount of (narcotics) relative to other rich countries. But relative to poorer countries, we’re kings,” he said.
Attaran, a law and medicine professor at the University of Ottawa, collaborated with his colleague Jason Nickerson in the study. Their complete findings were published in the medical journal PLoS (the Public Library of Science).
Canadians receive codeine for wisdom teeth removal, for example. If they’re battling the final stages of cancer, they do so with morphine to help ease the pain.
On the other hand, following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, which marks its second anniversary Thursday, people whose limbs were crushed in the rubble were being amputated on without any painkillers.
“In Canada, your wisdom teeth can get more pain relief than a woman in West Africa suffering from breast cancer. We’re the exception here. Most of the world, if you’re a cancer patient, you die in pain,” Attaran said.
While Attaran says Canada faces “no shortage” of painkillers, Haiti, with a population of 9.7 million people, is only allocated 671 grams of morphine, 117 grams of codeine, 83 grams of fentanyl and 309 grams of pethidine.
Some countries receive as low as 1 gram of morphine a year for the entire population.
A gram, Attaran estimates, would be sufficient supply for a cancer patient for about two weeks.