By Charissa Luci-Atienza
Cebu Rep. Eduardo Gullas called on authorities Monday to address the supposed growing abuse of synthetic opioid painkillers in Central Visayas.
He made the call, as the Department of Health (DOH) reported that a total of 2,199 drug users were infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) after sharing contaminated needles. Of these HIV-infected drugs users, 2,071 are males and 128 are females, Gullas said, quoting the DOH report.
Gullas expressed concern that 99 percent of the reported cases of people who inject drugs (PWIDs) who acquired HIV via needle-sharing from January 1984 to April 2019 were from Central Visayas.
“The growing abuse of synthetic opioid painkillers, particularly Nubain (Nalbuphine hydrochloride), is a serious health challenge, especially in Central Visayas. The DOH has to find ways to address the demand side of the problem,” Gullas said in a statement.
“We are also counting on the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency to suppress the supply side of the problem,” he said.
The Cebu lawmaker noted that Nubain first emerged in Cebu in the early 1990s and was classified as a “regulated drug” that may be prescribed only by physicians specially licensed by the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB).
Nubain is a powerful narcotic analgesic that may be injected into a vein, muscle or fat, he said.
Gullas noted that in 2011, Nubain was eventually reclassified by the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) a “dangerous drug”, banning its use.
He reminded that mere possession of Nubain ampules shall be slapped with a life sentence.
Gullas said people who inject drugs “have multiple vulnerabilities to HIV, hepatitis, tuberculosis (TB) and other infectious diseases,” citing a report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
The UNODC has warned that sharing injecting device is at least three times more likely to transmit HIV than sexual intercourse.
It noted there has been a 33 percent increase in new HIV infections among PWIDs in the last five years.
PWIDs are 24 times more likely to acquire HIV than adults in the general population, according to the UNODC.