Pubdate: Wed, 12 Jul 2006
Source: BBC News (UK Web)
Copyright: 2006 BBC
Bookmark: (Chronic Pain)
Bookmark: (Heroin)


Lack of drug led to 'agony' death The former husband of a mother of
three says she died in agony from cancer because of a shortage of a

Joe Fortescue from Alfreton, Derbyshire wants the government to
provide more diamorphine, which has been in short supply since 2004.

He said his 49-year-old ex-wife from Nottingham was screaming in pain
in the days before her death because it was not available.

Gedling Primary Care Trust said there was a national shortage of the

Highly Effective

Diamorphine is an opiate produced from poppies.

"I want to know why the drug is not available more readily to make
patients comfortable in their last hours," Mr Fortescue said.

He said his former wife was diagnosed with cancer three years ago and
had been prescribed morphine up until a few days before her death.

She was then prescribed diamorphine, which is a stronger derivative of
morphine, but the supply ran out and the district nurse was not able
to replace it, he said.

We cannot meet much more than 50% to 60% of the market

Pharmaceutical Firm Wockhardt

"The district nurse rang around but couldn't locate the drug - if you
went on the street you could probably buy heroin illegally in five
minutes, but you can't get a prescribed drugs for days," Mr Fortescue

Pharmacist Lyndon Close of Borrows and Close Pharmacies said: "There
is nothing as effective as diamorphine for battling the immense pain
that patients suffer in the later stages of a terminal disease."

He said the supply shortage dated back to December

"This has been going on for a year and a half - since then we have
been scrapping for supplies almost on a weekly basis."

He said there are some dedicated poppy farms in the UK to produce raw
material for the medication, but there were stringent controls on them.

Screams of Pain

Mr Fortescue said: "I don't want anybody to go through what my three
children had to go through - the hell of having to listen to their
mother scream in pain."

Gedling PCT said it was aware of the problem with the supply of
diamorphine and had been consulting Macmillan Cancer Care and the GPs
who support that service on the best way to resolve it.

"A scheme will shortly be launched for certain pharmacies across
Greater Nottingham to hold stocks of palliative care drugs such as
Diamorphine... to be able to supply them at short notice," it said.

The pharmaceutical firm that supplies diamorphine, Wockhardt, said:
"Capacity constraints in our manufacturing facilities mean that
despite our best efforts we cannot meet much more than 50% to 60% of
the market demand".

The Department of Health was not available for comment.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake