Kenya is set to start manufacturing morphine, a crucial painkiller used to relieve suffering of cancer patients as the country moves to boost its capacity to handle chronic diseases.
Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) has been identified as the central access and production point of morphine starting May.
“We will be starting with 47 kgs of morphine powder which will be reconstituted into a solution – to be enough for the next three years,” Kenya Hospices and Palliative Care Association (KEHPCA) executive director Zipporah Ali said.
“Only those who have dealt with delicate patients during palliative care would know that there is no pain as bad as cancer pain,” Dr Ali said at the World Cancer Day media forum in Nairobi Tuesday.
Through a public private partnership, the Danish International Development Agency (Danida) has already procured the powder at a cost of Sh185,000 per kilo translating to about Sh8.7 million. Other partners include the Kenyan government and the America Cancer Society which will offer equipment.
The pain management drug produced locally will be distributed by the Kenya Medical Supply Agency (Kemsa) to all the public, private and mission hospitals across the country.
“The medication will also be made available to all the hospices in Kenya.” said Dr Ali.
A Human Rights Watch report (2010) showed that morphine, which is relatively cheap and easy to administer, was available in only seven of Kenya’s approximately 250 public hospitals where only medical doctors were allowed to administer it.
The report showed that “all the morphine in the country (then) could treat pain in only 1,500 terminal cancer or AIDS patients.”
“We expect that the morphine that will be produced at the KNH will address about 70 per cent of the terminal cancer cases in the country,” said Dr Ali.
Health secretary, Cleopa Mailu said that cancer alone kills 76 Kenyans daily.