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Facing Fire Over Opioid Crisis, US Drugmakers Eye A Booming New Pain Market In India

The grimace on the woman’s face, registering her agony to Dr GP Dureja in his East Delhi office, would be recognized anywhere. Slouched shoulders, pinched forehead. She wore a willowy black kurta and cast a disapproving glance at the five pain physicians-in-training huddled behind Dureja, the founder of the Delhi Pain Management Centre and one of India’s pioneering pain physicians.

The five trainees, participants in the center’s acclaimed pain fellowship program, recorded the woman’s consultation on their smartphones, eager to see India’s famous pain doctor do his work. After their fellowships, they will return home, to Chennai, Kashmir, Rajasthan, ready to forge careers in India’s exploding pain industry.

The woman had been under Dureja’s care for some time now; he diagnosed her with fibromyalgia, a chronic neurological disorder that causes pain throughout the body. But the regimen of Paracetamol and tramadol, an opioid analgesic, was not working and she was beyond fatigued. She wanted more relief.

Indians once thought of pain relief as an indulgence of the west, Dureja said after the woman left his office gripping her new prescriptions. The old way of thinking was, “‘Nobody has time to complain about pain in our country.’ But I’m getting five to seven new patients per day.”

For-profit pain clinics like Delhi Pain Management Centre are opening by the score across Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore and other cities in this nation of 1.3 billion people. After decades of stringent narcotics laws, borne of debilitating opium epidemics of centuries past, India is a country ready to salve its pain.

And American pharmaceutical companies – architects of the opioid crisis in the United States and avid hunters of new markets – stand at the ready to fuel that demand.

For Indian cancer patients who once writhed in agony, there are fentanyl patches from a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson. – The Gurdian