Diederik Lohman, senior health researcher at Human Rights Watch, said: “This is good news for cancer patients in Ukraine, this change can bring relief to tens of thousands of Ukrainians who live and die in avoidable severe pain.”
Previously, morphine was only available in injectable form, with a maximum amount of 50mg person in 24 hours.
In its 2011 report, ‘Uncontrolled pain, Ukraine’s obligation to ensure evidence-based palliative care’, Human Rights Watch identified the lack of oral morphine as a key obstacle to the provision of quality end of life care in the country and recommended its introduction throughout the public healthcare system.
The Human Rights Watch report also highlighted inadequate training of healthcare workers and the country’s drug control regulations as other obstacles to good palliative care.
In its efforts to crack down on illicit drug use, Ukraine has adopted some of the most restrictive drug regulations in the world, however, the government is currently considering new drug regulations that would remove many barriers to the use of strong pain medicines, such as morphine.
Lohman added: “Now that oral morphine will become available, the government will need to make sure that doctors are trained in its use, and that public clinics have budget allocations to procure the medication. The adoption of the new drug control regulations would provide another major step, it would signal the government’s commitment to ensuring no patient has to suffer unnecessarily from severe pain.”
In his article published earlier this week, Dr Viktoria Tymoshevska said: “The battle is not over yet – we are very close to seeing new legislation regulating opioid use in medical settings that will enable providers to prescribe reasonable amounts of drugs to patients in their homes. There are immense plans for training of health providers and much more work ahead. But activists and many people are inspired by this small but very critical victory.”