The Human Rights Watch has welcomed Ukraine’s approval of new regulations that will allow greater access to strong painkillers, such as morphine.
The regulations, introduced on Monday, will simplify the prescription and dispensing of pain medicines to patients with pain severe due to cancer and other illnesses, and replace drug policies that the Human Rights Watch labelled as among the most restrictive in the world.
The approval comes a three months after Ukraine permitted Odessa-based pharmaceutical Interchem to begin production of 5mg and 10mg oral morphine tablets.
In a May 2011 report, "Uncontrolled Pain, Ukraine’s Obligation to Ensure Evidence-Based Palliative Care", the non-governmental organisation concluded that tens of thousands of cancer patients in Ukraine die every year in severe pain because they cannot get adequate palliative care services.
Until now, patients required four doctors to sign a prescription for strong pain killers and relied on nurses to visit them in their homes several times a day to administer each dose.
These regulations will be scrapped and patients will be able to keep a 15-day supply of pain medicines at home.
Human Rights Watch senior health researcher Diederik Lohman said; "This is a major advance, ensuring that Ukraine’s drug policy addresses the legitimate needs for medical opiates for pain relief."
Morphine is the number one recommended cancer pain treatment, and according to the World Health Organisation, basic oral morphine should be offered to patients every four hours.