Target: Armen Muradyan, Armenian Minister of Health
Goal: Remove unnecessary obstacles for cancer patients seeking pain medication.
Without access to the proper amount of pain medicine, cancer patients are suffering unbearable pain in Armenia. Laws and numerous bureaucratic hoops make it almost impossible for citizens to get opioids to aid in the pain caused by late-stage cancer and treatment, leaving an estimated 18,000 people in pain.
Law requires that to get a prescription a patient must go to one of only the handful of hospitals that offer biopsies for specific diagnoses, then get examined by five different specialists who need to give them four stamps and three signatures for a prescription. The doctors must then inform the police, despite violation of doctor patient confidentiality, as to the people who are receiving opioids and what their diagnosis is.
The struggle doesn’t end with the prescription, which gives them two shots of injectable morphine offering at most six hours of pain relief a day. Only a few pharmacies stock it and the patient must then return every one to two days in order to renew the prescription.
Armenia has no lack of morphine in numerous forms, but the extreme measures needed mean that only about three percent of those who need the medication are receiving it. In 2013 the government worked with nonprofits and other organizations to help get prescription morphine more easily accessible and started trials for a new system, but in the two years since there have been no changes.
Thousands of patients dealing with cancer should not have to also endure chronic pain. Doctors and nurses need to be taught in palliative medicines, and the process must be simplified so that patients can get the prescription and medicine from their local doctor.
Dear Minister of Health Muradyan,
For many years people suffering from the side effects of cancer in your country have gone without the proper pain medications to make the days tolerable. Steps forward have been made but halted in removing the barriers that sick citizens have to go over in order to get minuscule amounts of short-term morphine.
With thousands of people in the country having cancer and only three percent getting to deal with it pain-free, putting plans into action is important for the wellbeing of many struggling individuals and families. The extensive process that the law makes people go through, as well as the violation of their doctor confidentiality, are not in the best interest for their health.
It should be possible for patients to get their prescription from just one usual doctor instead of five specialists, and that prescription should be easily filled nearby with more than a few days and hours’ worth of relief. Stop the extreme measures and allow cancer patients to fight pain humanely.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Charles Williams