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Duterte’s painkiller is 'more powerful than heroin,' says medical specialist

A medical specialist on Thursday warned that Fentanyl, the drug President Rodrigo Duterte used, is too strong to be immediately prescribed as a painkiller.

“Kung ako, hindi ako agad magpre-prescribe ng Fentanyl. Ang Fentanyl is a very strong opioid analgesic and it's even stronger than heroin or morphine. Hindi 'yan agad ang ibibigay natin,” Dr. Leo Olarte, former president of the Philippine Medical Association, said in an Unang Balita interview.

“Pero kung talagang matindi ang sakit, depende rin kasi sa threshold ng pasiyente, minsan napipilitan din kasi ang doktor na ibigay, but not for chronic or repeated instances na iinom. Only for a short period of time,” he added.

Duterte on Monday disclosed that he used Fentanyl, which is prescribed for patients with chronic pain or for pain management after surgery.

He said he has migraine every day and has issues with his spine.

"I cannot afford the operation. It’s not because I do not have the money. I have the money to pay for it. It’s because my wife said that when—nerve is cut, you are dead forever. So those are the issues that I cannot decide by myself because I’m married to someone (who) says that I should not have it," Duterte said. 

"And I used to press something here. Fentanyl, it’s a painkiller. It’s being used by patients with cancer. I was only given a fourth of that square thing," he added.

While he revealed he has Barrett's esophagus and Buerger's disease, Duterte denied that he had cancer.

According to the US National Institute on Drug Abuse, Fentanyl “is a powerful synthetic opioid analgesic that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent."

A drug as powerful as Fentanyl, Olarte said, could have several side effects to the patient.

“Mataas ang incidence ng respiratory distress, mahihirapan kayong huminga, hallucination and also addiction. So delikado 'yan. Ginagamit lang 'yun in extreme pain which is not responsive to ordinary analgesics and only for emergency instances,” Olarte explained.

Fentanyl was first introduced as an intravenous anaesthetic, a News To Go report by GMA News’ Susan Enriquez said, but in the mid ‘90s, the drug became available in a patch.

Personalities who used Fentanyl were pop legend Prince and King of Pop Michael Jackson.

Meanwhile, Olarte advised Duterte to change his lifestyle in order to stay healthy.

“Dapat magkaroon siya ng change of daily living or activities, lifestyle. He must have adequate sleep eight hours a day, regular exercise, balanced diet. Avoid stressful activities, but that's impossible if you are in that position,” Olarte said. —Erwin Colcol/KG/TJD, GMA News