Staff Reporter

Morphine capsules will be given free to the patients

Thiruvananthapuram: The Regional Cancer Centre (RCC) here will soon make available morphine capsules free to terminally ill cancer patients across the State through all Government-recognised pain and palliative clinics.

This has become possible with the commissioning of the new drugs manufacturing unit at the College of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Medical College, which has the capacity to produce about 30,000 morphine sulphate capsules every day.

The unit, which is the first ever Government-run morphine capsules manufacturing unit in the country with cGMP certification (current Good Manufacturing Practices), is a collaborative effort of the RCC and the College of Pharmaceutical Sciences. The Rs.15-lakh plus project has been funded by the RCC.

The unit was inaugurated by Minister for Health P.K. Sreemathy here on Wednesday. She said the Government would make available necessary funds for the unit's expansion. Minister for Law M. Vijayakumar presided over the function.

The drug-manufacturing unit at the College of Pharmaceutical Sciences has been manufacturing liquid morphine for the patients at RCC since 1991. The project to manufacture morphine in the capsule form was drawn up as it is easier for doctors and caregivers to administer it to patients in the correct dosage.

The existing drug manufacturing unit was renovated at the initiative of the RCC so as to enhance its capacity to produce liquid morphine from 4,000 bottles a year to 10,000 bottles. Morphine in the tablet form is currently being manufactured by just one private pharmaceutical company in the State.

According to doctors at the Pain and Palliative Medicine unit of the RCC, there is a scarcity of morphine for palliative care purposes, primarily because almost all oral morphine manufacturing units are in the private sector.

The RCC alone requires about 12.5 kg of morphine every year for catering to the 9,000-odd patients who attend its palliative clinics. A chunk of the patients are from Tamil Nadu, which has only about five or six palliative clinics, while Kerala has a network of over 70 such centres, doctors said.

The RCC is already making available free morphine for its patients in the out-patient and in-patient clinics. It also has an outreach palliative care division, which reaches pain-relieving drugs to patients at home free.