Govt to provide free life-saving drugs to prevent overdose deaths

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IMPHAL, January 28: The State government has decided to procure NALAXONE, a lifesaving drug to treat drug-overdose cases in one go for a year so as to provide free treatment to the needy in a month`™s time, considering the serious problem of death cases due to drug-overdose.

This was stated by PK Jha, project director of Manipur State AIDS Control Society, at a one-day State Level Consultation on `Improving Access to Nalaxone at Health Care Settings in Manipur` held at the MACS Conference Hall, RD Wing under the aegis of National Health Mission (NHM), Manipur State AIDS Control Society (MSACS) and Community Network for Empowerment (CoNE).

Jha said though drug overdose is a common phenomenon among the people who inject drugs in the state, as per reports available from NGOs and communities, drug overdose is one of the main factors for deaths among people who use drugs.

The unavailability of drug overdose data makes it difficult to accurately describe the overdose burden in Manipur. Hence, in the absence of official overdose data of Manipur, the government has been unable to come up with responses which can have any serious impact in containing the seriousness of the issue, he said.

But people overdosed on drugs can be saved by NALAXONE, a drug which is cheap and at the same time safe to use. NALAXONE has been included in the list of essential medicines by World Health Organisation (WHO) since 1983. However, this medicine is still unavailable in health care settings in the state, Jha said.

He further said that considering the gravity of this issue, and to save lives, NALAXONE will be made available to the needy.

CoNE has been taking up initiatives to address the issue of drug-overdose in the state for quite a long time. As a part of the initiative, CoNE has approached the Health department to make NALAXONE accessible to the needy free of cost, he said.

Jha stated `considering the problems being faced by people who used drugs in case of drug-overdose and the feedbacks being given by various NGOs in this field, the State government has decided to provide NALAXONE in one go for a year,` and added that `the medicine to treat drug-overdose would be made available in health care centres of the state. As of now, the approval from the Finance department is being awaited so that the problem of drug-overdose is met at the earliest in the interest of the drug users`™ community. Hopefully, NALAXONE would be available free of cost to the public in a months`™ time`.

He also informed that the most important thing was to make the general population aware that NALAXONE is available in the health care centres. The information should be provided to all the NGOs working in drug-abuse. `MSACS will make sure that NALAXONE will be available in proper quantity as soon as the Finance department approves of procuring the medicine`.

Delivering his speech, Mission director, State Health Society, Dr O Ibomcha Singh pointed out the need to procure Nikethamide along with NALAXONE. There are also cases of drug-overdose when other drugs apart from opioid are used. As such, when we procure NALAXONE, there is also the need to procure Nikethamide which can be used in all kinds of drug-overdose cases. He also informed that NALAXONE should be made available in all health centres and also sub-health centres, adding, `Trainings should also be imparted at different levels including ANMs and ASHAs.`

A former drug user and a survivor from drug-overdose shared that he experienced instances of drug overdose a couple of times and each time he was saved by volunteers of NGOs working in this field.

Finally, he said, he decided to give up drugs and joined the OST programme under SASO. Considering the problems, he had faced with drug-overdose and the need to bring drug-users to the mainstream, he started volunteering to help people like him.

During the course of his volunteer work, he said, he had been able to save about 50 people who use drugs, from overdose related deaths in the last one year.

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