‘Living and dying in pain: It doesn’t have to happen’ – Palliative Care Association of Malawi

People suffering from chronic illnesses in the country now have increased chances to access pain-relieving medication and intervention after Palliative Care Association of Malawi (PACAM), in conjunction with Ministry of Health loosened up legislation that used to limit use of strong pain-relieving drugs.

Patients dying in unnecessary pain, many do not get the drugs they need
Patients dying in unnecessary pain, many do not get the drugs they need

PACAM revealed the development during commemoration of World Hospice and Palliative Care Day held in Mzuzu recently under the theme, “Living and dying in pain; it doesn’t have to happen”.

Speaking at the occasion, PACAM chairperson, Dr. Agnes Moses, said there are a lot of people in the country suffering from chronic illnesses and that they cannot bare pain emanating from such illnesses.

She said such pains can be controlled by pain-relieving medications, which over the years, have been strictly controlled for fear of misuse.

Dr Moses stated that pain-relieving drugs, such as morphine, are controlled because they can be addictive to some users.

“There are drugs that can help control pain in people that suffer from prolonged illnesses but most of these drugs are controlled by the International Narcotics Board because some people can misuse the drugs,” she said.

However, she told people gathered at the function that under the direction from World Health Organization (WHO), PACAM and the Ministry of Health (MoH) are now prescribing pain-relieving drugs to those with chronic illnesses.

According to Moses, concerned stakeholders realized that the therapy to pain is a human right, as such, agreed to loosen up some restrictions on the drugs. However, the prescription for such drugs is only done by those who have undergone a medical training on such medications.

Malawi is reported to have made tremendous improvement in the provision of pain-relieving drugs to those who need them, and is ranked number three in Africa.

“These drugs could not be accessed by anyone, so we loosened up the regulations a bit, as such; most medical facilities are now able to prescribe such drugs.

“We liaise with Central Medical Stores, Ministry of Health, and the legal bureau among others institutions, to make sure that trained personnel are the ones prescribing those drugs.

In her remarks during the occasion, Assistant Zone Supervisor for Northern Health Zone, Rose Chisiza who represented the Director of Nursing Services, assured Malawians that Ministry of Health will continue providing palliative care in the country.

“60 per cent of implementation sites are owned by government, 23 per cent by CHAM facilities and 17 per cent by non-governmental organizations.

“The ministry will continue to champion and commit itself to providing palliative care,” Chisiza said.

She disclosed that one percent of the country’s population is in dire need of palliative care, especially those suffering from sickle cell anemia, diabetes and cancer, amongst other diseases.

Assistant Zone Supervisor said government cannot reach everyone at once due to shortage of medical personnel.

Chisiza also revealed that government has integrated the study of narcotics into its medical schools’ curriculum to ensure that the medical personnel have knowledge on the prescription of drugs such as morphine.

PACAM was launched in 2005 by different stakeholders who felt the need to make life easier for those who suffer from prolonged illnesses, such as cancer.

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