This move comes after the amendments were approved by the Lower House, following long years of hard work by Indian palliative care advocates. Although there is still a long road ahead to ensure opioid access and availability to all who need it in India, this represents the overcoming of a major hurdle.
Dr M.R. Rajagopal, Chair of Pallium India, said: “Honestly, we find it difficult to believe that it happened. (The bill was) the last item to get attention before the Parliament session ended,” before reporting a comment by Mr Rajesh Nandan Srivastava: “It was like hitting a six off the last ball when six were needed”.
Dr Rajogopal continued: “It is done! It has been a great journey, frustrating most of the time, but nevertheless a great experience, finding goodness in people all over the country, in the highest places in the Government as well as among the common people.
“In 1993, we did not know the road to take. We were like the Cheshire cat who told Alice in Lewis Carroll’s masterpiece: “When you don’t know where you are going, every road will take you there.” Well, we finally got here. Thank you everyone who supported the palliative care people in the country to get here and to gain the power to wipe away some more tears.”
Children’s palliative care
Responding to the news, ICPCN Chief Executive Joan Marston had this to say: “Children are among those who have suffered unnecessary pain due to lack of access to opioids in India. As the ICPCN we congratulate and share in the joy of Dr Rajagopal and his colleagues in the Indian Association of Palliative Care who have “fought the good fight” so valiantly over the past 19 years so that children and adults can live and die in dignity with their pain controlled. We wish them strength to continue to work for the application of this new law.”
When asked to comment on the effect the passing of this bill could have on the provision of palliative care to children in India, Dr Pradnya Talawadekar, country co-ordinator of the Children’s Palliative Care project based in Maharashtra said, “In our experience, many medical institutes we work with presently have reservations in getting or renewing the licences for morphine and this is a great hurdle in providing pain relief to children. According to the NDPS amendment Bill, the recognised medical institutions (RMIs) approved by State drugs controller now do not need various licenses and that will result in easy access to pain relieving drugs, thus improving the quality of life of the sufferer.
Read an interview with Dr Rajagopal and a report by Human Rights Watch on the importance of this decision, prior to the amendments being passed