Tuesday, 23 January 2007
NHS Poppy Appeal
The British Medical Association say Afghanistan's opium-poppy harvest should be used to tackle an NHS shortage of diamorphine (also known as heroin).
Rather than destroying the poppy crop it could be used to produce diamorphine for the NHS. Diamorphine is used to relieve pain after operations and for the terminally ill. Due to a shortage doctors are having to rely on less effective drugs.
Dr Vivienne Nathanson, head of science and ethics at the BMA, said: "If we actually were harvesting this drug from Afghanistan rather than destroying it, we'd be benefiting the population of Afghanistan as well as helping patients and not putting people at risk. There must be ways of harvesting it and making sure that the harvest safely reaches the drug industry which would then refine it into diamorphine. It should be possible, and really government and the international groups that are in Afghanistan should be looking at this and saying how can we convert it from being an illicit crop to a legal crop that is medicinally useful."
Dr Jonathan Fielden, a consultant in anaesthesia and intensive care medicine in Reading, said:"The biggest difficulty will be changing the views of those countries, particularly the US, where this drug is banned. That will take a great cultural change to let them realise that a very cheap drug, easily produced, beneficial to patients, can be brought back in and used, rather than being seen as a drug of abuse."
The Afghan authorities and the UK government are against using the poppy crop to produce medicines and are stepping up their efforts to destroy new crops.
That sounds about right for this government. It's easier to burn the crops than do something useful with them.