May 31, 2011
Tens of thousands of patients with advanced cancer in Ukraine unnecessarily suffer from severe pain every year because they cannot get effective, safe, and inexpensive pain medications, Human Rights Watch said in a report released in May.
The report, “Uncontrolled Pain: Ukraine’s Obligation to Ensure Evidence-Based Palliative Care,” describes Ukrainian government policies that make it impossible for cancer patients living in rural areas to get essential pain medications. While most cancer patients in cities have access to some medications, the treatment they receive is inadequate and provides only limited relief, Human Rights Watch found. “There is no reason people have to live out their last months in torment,” said Diederik Lohman, senior health researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Severe pain is not inevitable. Ukraine needs to fix its health policies and drug regulations to put safe and effective pain medicines in the reach of people who need them.”
The report is based on in-depth interviews with 20 patients, 35 healthcare workers, and a dozen drug control and health officials and a review of relevant regulations and policy documents. At least 80,000 cancer patients in Ukraine experience severe pain every year, cancer mortality figures suggest. In addition, many other patients, including those with HIV, tuberculosis, or other infections or illnesses, may face acute or chronic severe pain.