drugs banned, poor suffer

drugs banned, poor suffer - September10,2007Monday...

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September 10, 2007 Monday  Late Edition - Final Drugs Banned, World's  Poor  Suffer in Pain BYLINE:  By DONALD G. McNEIL Jr. SECTION:  Section A; Column 0; Foreign Desk; Pg. 1 LENGTH:  2067 words DATELINE:  WATERLOO, Sierra Leone  Although the rainy season was coming on fast, Zainabu Sesay was in no shape to help her husband.  Ditches had to be dug to protect their cassava and peanuts, and their mud hut's palm roof was sliding off. But Mrs. Sesay was sick. She had breast cancer in a form that Western doctors rarely see anymore -- the  tumor had burst through her skin, looking like a putrid head of cauliflower weeping small amounts of blood  at its edges. ''It bone! It booonnnne lie de fi-yuh!'' she said of the pain -- it burns like fire -- in Krio, the blended  language spoken in this country where British colonizers resettled freed slaves. No one had directly told her yet, but there was no hope -- the cancer was also in her lymph glands and  ribs. Like millions of others in the world's poorest countries, she is destined to die in pain. She cannot get the  drug she needs -- one that is cheap, effective, perfectly legal for medical uses under treaties signed by  virtually every country, made in large quantities, and has been around since Hippocrates praised its  source, the opium poppy. She cannot get morphine. That is not merely because of her poverty, or that of Sierra Leone. Narcotics incite fear: doctors fear  addicting patients, and law enforcement officials fear drug crime. Often, the government elite who can  afford medicine for themselves are indifferent to the sufferings of the  poor. The World Health Organization estimates that 4.8 million people a year with moderate to severe cancer  pain receive no appropriate treatment. Nor do another 1.4 million with late-stage AIDS. For other causes  of lingering pain -- burns, car accidents, gunshots, diabetic nerve damage, sickle-cell disease and so on --  it issues no estimates but believes that millions go untreated. Figures gathered by the International Narcotics Control Board, a United Nations agency, make it clear:  citizens of  rich  nations suffer less. Six countries -- the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Britain  and Australia -- consume 79 percent of the world's morphine, according to a 2005 estimate. The  poor  and  middle-income countries where 80 percent of the world's people live consumed only about 6 percent. 
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Some countries imported virtually none. ''Even if the president gets cancer pain, he will get no analgesia,''  said Willem Scholten, a World Health Organization official who studies the issue. 
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