Right to pain relief: 5.5 billion people have no access, warn UN experts

Categories: Policy.

The UN Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, Rosa Kornfeld-Matte, and the Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Dainius Pûras, warned that in many countries, palliative care is still non-existent or not even recognized as a medical specialty. 

“An estimated 5.5 billion people have no or inadequate access to medicines containing narcotic drugs or to treatment for moderate to severe pain, according to the UN International Narcotics Control Board – the body charged with the implementation of the UN drug conventions. 

“In other words, three quarters of the world’s population, have limited or no access to pain relief treatment. Older persons with a life-threatening or life-limiting illness continue to have limited access to medication, due to restrictive drug regulations and the failure to implement a properly functioning supply and distribution system. 

“This is often exacerbated by inadequate health-care system capacity and a lack of training programmes that address the specific needs and wishes of older persons. In fact, in many countries, palliative care is still non-existent or not recognized as a medical specialty.”

Acknowledging the recent International Day of Older persons, the experts noted that: “Older persons have the right to live the last years of their lives with dignity and without unnecessary suffering. Obstacles to accessing palliative care must be identified and tackled to provide relief for those in need. 

“On occasion of the World Hospice and Palliative Care Day, we call on States to comply fully with their obligations and ensure the availability and accessibility of such care for all in need,” they concluded.