Indian Supreme Court Ruling May Open Access to Morphine

September 2012 by Treat the Pain's intern, Ali Carter

Ms. Carter is an undergraduate student at Georgetown University majoring in biology of global health.

Dr. Rajagopal

Today in India, many patients have no access to pain relief. Twenty-five years after WHO came out with a viable protocol for pain relief, oral morphine is still not available in the majority of hospitals. However, a recent Indian Supreme Court ruling may have giant implications for the numbers of Indians suffering from unnecessary pain. On August 30th the Supreme Court ruled that all states must provide morphine at no cost to its residents. Failure to comply with the ruling requires that the state will have to send its Chief Secretary to appear before the Supreme Court.

Additionally, the government is planning to update the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act in order to make morphine more easily available to the population of India living with chronic pain.[1] The changes will make procurement of the drug easier so that it can be more widely prescribed to those with severe pain.

"Paradoxically, India is supplying opium to the whole world but our own people are dying because of misapprehensions. Two most important barriers to availability of morphine are the complicated narcotic regulations and generations of doctors having no education or exposure to it,"[2] Dr. Rajagopal, chairman of Pallium India, was quoted in an article in The Times of India. Hopefully, the proposed changes to the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act will make morphine more accessible in India by simplifying the regulatory process surrounding the procurement of pain medicines for pharmaceutical use. GAPRI is collaborating with Pallium India to launch our pain-free hospital initiative in three hospitals in the next quarter. We welcome the news about India’s evolving palliative care policies!