Advocacy for access to controlled medicines – promoting balanced drug policy for palliative care
The International Drug Conventions regulate controlled substances including medicines key to pain relief in palliative care, such as morphine, hydrocodone, fentanyl and oxycodone.18 Apr 2016
While the Conventions impose a dual obligation upon signatory states – to prevent the diversion and misuse of controlled substances and to ensure the adequate availability of controlled medicines for legitimate use – in reality, national governments tend to focus heavily on misuse.
This has overwhelming repercussions for access to pain medicines – the WHO estimates more than 80% of the global population live in countries with limited or no access to adequate pain relief.
In light of the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem (UNGASS) this month, this article will highlight some of the achievements of palliative care advocates promoting balanced drug policy and improving availability of pain relief.
Taking action to improve access to medications
These successes are in line with the 2010 resolution of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, which asks states to take action to improve the availability of narcotic drugs for medical purposes and to ensure that regulators and health professionals understand that opioid-based medicines are indispensable for the relief of pain and suffering.
Driven by the politics of drug control, states frequently introduce requirements which go beyond the already strict provisions of the International Drug Conventions. This has a particularly devastating impact on access to controlled medicines for pain relief.
Set out below are a number of key provisions of the Conventions, a breakdown of severe or excessive interpretation of such provisions, and illustrations of reforms to improve access to controlled medicines.
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