Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Sheila Campbell-Forrester, has said that Jamaica’s policies relating to the administration of drugs may have to be adjusted to allow greater flexibility in the use of opioids for treating chronic diseases.
Opioids are a class of drugs commonly prescribed for their analgesic (pain-killing) properties, and used in medicine because they can block the perception of pain. They include substances such as morphine, codeine, oxycodone, and methadone.
“We have our Dangerous Drugs Act that guides us, but I think we also have to recognise that opioids are important in pain management, and that the policies and legislation that we have may well need to be adjusted to allow us greater flexibility and, at the same time, making sure that we protect the health worker and the user,” Dr. Campbell-Forrester said.
She was addressing a pain policy meeting and workshop at the Alhambra Inn, Kingston on Monday (November 15).
Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Sheila Campbell-Forrester (left), in discussion with Senior Medical Officer, Hope Institute, Dr. Dingle Spence (centre) and Director, Pain Policy Studies Group, University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Centre, in the U.S., Dr. Jim Cleary. Occasion was a pain policy meeting held at the Alhambra Inn in Kingston on Monday (November 15).
The CMO noted, however, that while opioids have formed part of the treatment modality, as new methods emerge in their use, and in palliative care, “it is imperative that we understand this and also how to prevent misuse.”
Palliative care is any form of medical care or treatment that concentrates on reducing the severity of disease symptoms, rather than striving to halt, delay, or reverse progression of the disease itself, or provide a cure. The goal is to prevent and relieve suffering, and to improve quality of life for people facing serious, complex illness.
The CMO pointed out that as the incidences of chronic diseases, which is associated with the prevalence of pain, continue to increase the Ministry of Health is seeking to place more focus on pain management and palliative care.
She noted that cancers, for instance, one of the five leading causes of death in Jamaica associated with significant pain, has to be adequately managed.
The CMO maintained that pain management and palliative care must be part of the treatment arsenal to address patient discomfort, family discomforts and to restore persons to their productivity levels as much as possible.
“There are other conditions, such as HIV, arthritic disease and chronic back pain that produces pain and loss of productivity and many of these conditions are occurring in the age group that is very productive, and so we have to consider that it’s important that pain does not reduce their productivity, or that we are able to minimise the pain,” Dr. Campbell-Forrester added.
She noted that though the management of pain may not be optimal and that palliative care is limited in Jamaica, “we are happy that we have persons in training, who can help to guide the process”.
The Pain and Policy Studies Group, a World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Pain and Palliative Care, University of Wisconsin, has awarded an International Pain and Policy Fellowship to two employees of the Ministry of Health. Their remit is to improve the access and availability of opioid analgesics and provision of palliative care in Jamaica.
The event, held under the theme, “Ministry of Health Moving Forward with Pain and Palliative Care in Jamaica”, was organised by the Standards and Regulation Division of the Ministry of Health. It focused on policy and process issues; how to improve access and availability of opioid analgesics; and the provision of palliative care in Jamaica.