Why are cancer patients no longer prescribed methadone in polyclinics?

February 9, 2023  12:52

A number of drugs for cancer patients, including methadone, which is used as an anesthetic, have recently been stopped being prescribed by Armenian polyclinics. The husband of one of the patients, who is only helped by methadone, was forced to put his wife back into a palliative care clinic to keep her from severe pain. He also called the Ministry of Health hotline, where he was promised to look into the matter.

But the other day, in response to a question of NEWS.am Medicine about the shortage of cancer drugs, Health Minister Anahit Avanesyan was surprised that the drug "methadone" was mentioned among the drugs for cancer patients.

It is known that methadone is a synthetic drug from opioid group, used mainly as substitution therapy for drug addiction treatment. But it is also used as an analgesic. In Armenia, methadone is imported with the support of the Global Fund, and the monopolist of this drug is the company Arfarmatsia, which is associated with the Anahit Avanesyan family.

In a conversation with NEWS.am Medicine reporter, head of palliative services at the National Center of Oncology named after Fanarjyan Hrant Karapetyan told Methadone is widely used in palliative care and is much more effective and affordable than other types of medication.

He noted that on the basis of the epicrysis written by palliative care doctors, patients can get a prescription for this drug in the outpatient clinic. Previously, methadone tablets, 40 mg, were supplied in the country, for which a prescription was written for outpatients. Now, Arfarmatsiya delivers only bottled methadone (according to the website pharm.am, only this form of the drug is now registered in Armenia). The bottled drug, according to Hrant Karapetyan, can be used only in a hospital, where it is possible to do the right packaging and dosage. At home, there is a high risk of overdosing.

When asked what the patients should do, the doctor shrugged his hands. According to him, if a patient is effectively helped by methadone, there is no other alternative for him - other opioids may not be effective in his case. In the specific case of this patient, methadone tablets were obtained in a private clinic, of course, for money, while painkillers for cancer patients, according to the law, must be issued by state order.

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