The Commission on Narcotic Drugs is meeting this week at the Vienna International Center, under the auspices of the UN Economic and Social Council, to discuss “the world drug problem,” amid concerns by palliative care advocates around a disproportionate focus on control at the expense of access to essential medicines.
Palliative care advocates from the International Association of Hospice and Palliative Care (IAHPC), the Worldwide Palliative Care Alliance (WPCA), the International Pain & Policy Studies Group (IPPSG) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) are attending the meeting, calling for a new major focus to be added to the discussions, to highlight access to controlled substances for medical use. Currently the main areas of focus are: supply, demand reduction, and money laundering.
Access to controlled medications is a major issue in the provision of essential pain relief and, therefore effective palliative care. Overly stringent laws controlling narcotic substances mean that, although these medications are on the WHO Essential Medicines List, patients may be unable to access them. In some countries, morphine and other opioids are illegal, while in many others the rules governing access are prohibitively strict.
The recent high-profile suicide of Russian Admiral Vyacheslav Apanasenko is a tragic case study that reflects a problem faced by too many around the world.
The side event has been well attended, with Jorge Corrales, counsellor of the permanent mission of Panama to Geneva, speaking about the WHO resolution on palliative care, which calls on countries to ensure access to essential pain medications.
Look out for a report following the event on ehospice and follow the meeting live on the Commission on Narcotic Drugs blog or on Twitter with the hashtag #CND2014.