The UN General assembly will hold a special session (UNGASS) on the World Drug Problem on 19-21 April 2016. A major opportunity to address the issue of limited availability of controlled medicines in much of the world.

14 Sep 2015

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that each year 5.5 million terminal cancer patients suffer moderate to severe pain that is not managed at all. An absurd number considering that moderate to severe pain can be treated with inexpensive, safe and easy to administer opioid analgesics such as morphine. 

 Yet as it currently stands 92% of the worlds morphine is consumed by 17% of the world’s population, essentially in high income countries, while low and middle income countries which account for 83% of the global population, consume only 8% of the medical morphine.

 In recent years, the cancer and wider health community have been pressing governments to ensure that access to pain relief and palliative care is prioritised within the world health and development agenda, with efforts being rewarded by UN Member States finally passing a ground breaking resolution on palliative care at the 2014 World Health Assembly.

Yet despite this great step, little progress has been made since, and access to pain medicines remains constrained by several well-known barriers including inadequate training of healthcare workers, misconceptions about pain and its treatment with morphine and other opioids, and overly restrictive laws and regulations.

 April 2016: time to put words into action

UNGASS 2016 is therefore a major opportunity for palliative care advocates to ensure the that the availability of controlled medicines gets the attention it needs and deserves and that the international community acts to resolve this longstanding problem that causes millions to experience unnecessary pain each year.

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