Skip to main content

A Push for Balanced Drug Policy Is Transforming Pain Relief in India

Dr. M.R. Rajagopal
Still image from “Bringing Palliative Care to India.” Dr. M.R. Rajagopal, founder and chairman of Pallium India, is working to improve access to palliative care in India, particularly in the form of opioid medicines like morphine.

How do you care for a patient in pain? It’s a deceptively complicated question—one that garners vastly different responses depending on where you are in the world. In some places, pain is poorly understood, and medicines to relieve pain are unavailable or stigmatized.

Dr. M.R. Rajagopal is the founder and chairman of Pallium India, a palliative care organization emphasizing compassionate care and working to ensure patients are offered adequate treatment for their pain. Dr. Rajagopal has dedicated decades to ensuring quality of life for his patients and is a committed advocate for better access to controlled medicines—particularly morphine, an affordable and effective, yet highly stigmatized, treatment.

In 80 percent of the world, political, regulatory, and social barriers—often related to the UN’s International Drug Control Conventions—mean that patients do not receive medication for pain relief. “This is a global issue,” Dr. Rajagopal says. “It really hurts in developing countries.”

Dr. Rajagopal’s advocacy has contributed to law reform in India—a critical step in reducing needless suffering and allowing millions to access pain relief. He is now working with doctors, nurses, patients, and government officials to implement reforms at the state level. India’s growing leadership in palliative care, and recognition of the need for balanced drug policy, will change the lives of millions.

In April, the UN will meet for the General Assembly Special Session on drugs (UNGASS), a chance to move global drug policies in a more compassionate direction. Dr Rajagopal’s work is an excellent example of the potential of this mindset, and proof that our war on drugs must not needlessly claim more victims.

Pallium India is a grantee of the Open Society Foundations. At Open Society is a video series highlighting the people and ideas that are inspiring our work—and changing the world.

Read more

Subscribe to updates about Open Society’s work around the world