The global pandemic of untreated pain and the war on drugs

Categories: In The Media.

In an editorial published in the New York Times earlier this week, Ronald Piana highlights the low availability of morphine in low- and middle-income countries and how “bureaucratic hurdles, cultural biases and the chilling effect of the international war on drugs” have created a situation where 90% of the world’s morphine consumption is in wealthy countries in North America and Europe.

Piana also highlights recent successes in India and Uganda in improving access to morphine, and how “by partnering with international organisations and developing innovative delivery systems, certain resource-challenged areas in the developing world have made progress.”

However, advocates around the world are working hard to shift emphasis from excessive control and enforcement of illicit drugs, to improved availability of opioid medicines for the relief of pain and suffering.

Writing for the EAPC blog yesterday, Dr Katherine Pettus, Advocacy Officer for International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care, reports on the fifth intersessional meeting of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), a UN treaty body.

The purpose of this meeting was to prepare delegates of CND member states for the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs, being held in 2016.

As Dr Pettus reports, the intersessional meeting featured a number of presentations aims at educating delegates on the issue of availability of essential opioid medicines controlled under international law. These presentations are available to download.

She writes: “While those of us who have been working on improving availability welcome increased attention to the issue, it was disappointing that there was still so much narrative emphasis on control and misuse rather than access.”

You can read Dr Pettus full report – which includes links to a number of useful resources – on the EAPC blog.

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