Today's Coming Crisis Movie

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Freedom from Pain: When the War on Drugs Hurts Rather Than Harms



For much of the Western world, physical pain ends with a simple pill. Yet more than half the world's countries have little to no access to morphine, the gold standard for treating medical pain.

Freedom from Pain shines a light on this under-reported story. "For a victim of police torture, they will usually sign a confession and the torture stops," says Diederik Lohman of Human Rights Watch in the film. "For someone who has cancer pain, that torturous experience continues for weeks, and sometimes months on end."

Unlike so many global health problems, pain treatment is not about money or a lack of drugs, since morphine costs pennies per dose and is easily made. The treatment of pain is complicated by many factors, including drug laws, bureaucratic rigidity and commercial disincentives.

In India, the first stop in the film and the world's largest grower of medicinal poppy for developed countries, there are severe restrictions to the use of morphine domestically. In 27 out of 28 states in India, narcotics laws are so strict that doctors fear prescribing it, and patients literally scream for relief. Drug companies have little incentive to manufacture morphine for the domestic market because of reporting requirements and small profit margins.

In the Ukraine, the film reveals that access to pain medication is halted by outdated, Soviet-style bureaucracy, arbitrary limits on doses, and a lack of oral morphine. As a result, many patients experience prolonged bouts of untreated pain, particularly in rural areas. In the Ukraine, we learn that Artur, a former decorated KGB colonel suffering from prostate cancer, sleeps with a gun under his pillow - his only way out, should he decide his pain is too great. (more)