Bahrain sees 700pc rise in use of painkillers
Manama, May 22, 2013
There has been a staggering increase of up to 700 per cent in the use of prescription painkillers in some areas of Bahrain since the beginning of 2011, a report said.
This coincides with an outbreak of anti-government protests, which has led to political turmoil and divisions in the community, according to a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
As a result, the use of prescription painkillers in Bahrain - including morphine and pethidine - is now estimated to be 35 times higher than the international average.
Sources said some of the country's major trouble spots, which have been plagued by violence and vandalism since 2011, had registered the highest increase.
They added that some patients had been admitted to Salmaniya Medical Complex (SMC) up to 370 times in a year for morphine injections - which means they sometimes went more than once a day.
The revelations emerged after a police crackdown on Bahrain's "morphine mafia", which aims to restrict access to potent drugs to those who genuinely need them.
"On some days, it is estimated 2,000 ampules of these painkillers were being administered at SMC alone," sources said.
"As many as 750,000 ampules were being used per year in Bahrain, a figure that is far too high considering Bahrain's population and size."
The Interior Ministry announced earlier this month that a "mafia" involving doctors and other officials, including "well-known personalities", was believed to be operating in Bahrain.
As a result it announced police were stepping up investigations into the misuse of painkillers and sedatives.
Interior Minister Lieutenant-General Shaikh Rashid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa ordered a probe into the use of painkillers in the health sector.
It was revealed that 300,000 morphine injections had been given at SMC, compared to only 3,000 at the BDF Hospital.
"It has come to light that some patients had been admitted to the SMC 370 times a year," said sources. "This means they were admitted more than once a day on some days."
They added that patients visited the hospital twice a day to demand shots. "To give this shot a patient has to be admitted, thus the high admission rate can be explained," they said.
Meanwhile, known trouble spots have seen huge rise in morphine use. For example, there was a 700 per cent increase in Jidhafs and a 200 per cent increase in Budaiya and Bilad Al Qadeem.
Sources revealed that a top doctor, whose clinic was found to contain hundreds of ampules of such painkillers during a raid last year, was being investigated for his alleged role in administering them to patients. Most of those seeking prescription painkillers are said to be sickle cell patients, who are now reportedly trying to get around tighter drug restrictions by approaching private hospitals.
"After new rules were put in place, they are now reportedly going to private hospitals - so now the private hospitals are also under the scanner," added sources. "They are being asked to show where they are using the painkillers and also to produce patients' CPR numbers."
The sources stressed that those in genuine need of such painkillers were not being refused, but the drugs were only being administered after a thorough blood test - which some patients refused.
"Those patients who come just to get a morphine shot are refusing blood investigations," added sources. – TradeArabia News Service