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Sickle cell patients hit by morphine shortage.

CAMPAIGNERS have reiterated claims that a non-availability of morphine in Bahrain's public health facilities is compounding the suffering of hundreds of sickle cell anaemia patients.

The Health Ministry has denied any such shortage, according to a report by our sister newspaper Akhbar Al Khaleej on Saturday.

However, the Bahrain Sickle Cell Anaemia Patient Care Society told the GDN yesterday that officials had privately acknowledged an absence of the pain medication in health centres and at Salmaniya Medical Complex (SMC).

The society's medical affairs head, Sadiq Thamer, said Health Ministry representatives had confirmed during a meeting on Sunday that morphine would be unavailable for two weeks.

"It is not only a shortage - there is no morphine in the country," claimed Mr Thamer.

"When we spoke to ministry officials on Sunday, we were told to wait for two weeks."

Morphine is the strongest painkiller used to alleviate the suffering of sickle cell anaemia patients, of whom there are around 5,000 in Bahrain.

The hereditary condition, in which patients develop sickle-shaped blood cells, is incurable and can cause severe pain among sufferers when the cells block veins - leading to symptoms known as a crisis.

"This is unacceptable," added Mr Thamer.

"Two weeks of suffering is too long for those in pain, who include men, women, children and the elderly.

"We urge the ministry to find an alternative solution, like liaising with neighbouring GCC countries to help us get an urgent stock of morphine."

In May 2016, following an earlier morphine shortage, the Heath Ministry started administering oxycodone as an alternative pain reliever despite objections from patients.

However, Mr Thamer claimed some patients were allergic to oxycodone and other available pain medication.

"Patients are now offered the option of oxycodone, but many of them are allergic," he said.

"It is the same case with other painkillers, like tramadol or pethidine."

In fact, he claimed such medications could actually make matters worse for sickle cell anaemia patients who were allergic to them.

"If allergic, these drugs can lead to a crisis attack or other serious complications that we are unaware of," he said. "Patients are reluctant to use them and choose to suffer in pain."

There was also a brief morphine shortage last month.

"We had many patients calling us to report they were not given morphine, as there was a shortage and it was being reserved for emergency patients," added Mr Thamer.

"But since the beginning of this month the shortage has been acute, as in there is zero morphine in health centres and SMC."

An official at the Hereditary Blood Disorder Centre confirmed to the GDN last month that a shortage in morphine supplies was witnessed during the Ashoora holiday, but claimed the issue had since been resolved.

Mr Thamer said the situation last month had been manageable, since depleted stocks of morphine were reserved for patients unable or unwilling to take alternative pain relief.

However, he said the situation was now much worse.

"We sincerely hope officials understand the gravity of the situation," said Mr Thamer.

"We accepted the shortage earlier, but now we have no stock of the drug (morphine), which is crucial for a good number of sickle cell anaemia patients."

Health Ministry officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.

raji@gdn.com.bh

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Publication:Gulf Daily News (Manama, Bahrain)
Geographic Code:7BAHR
Date:Oct 10, 2018
Words:567
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