Great progress has been made in defining the world drug problem as a public health and in raising awareness of the issue of lack of access to controlled medicines. Improving access is now an area of consensus following a highly contentious drug policy debate and a yearlong preparatory process for the UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS) which took place from April 19-21, 2016 in New York.
Limited access to essential medicines for the treatment of pain, palliative care, surgery, substance use disorder and mental and neurological conditions, is one of the least recognized and most egregious tragedies in global health. National and international drug control policies have historically put the focus on restricting access to controlled substances. Unduly restrictive national regulations leave the vast majority of the most vulnerable and marginalized patients in agonizing pain and distress. Untreated pain traumatises families, caregivers, and providers, who must often stand by helplessly and witness what is in fact very treatable suffering. 75% of the world’s population lack access to controlled substances for medical and scientific use.
“I urge you to remember the people. And remember their right to treatment and care: The people with cancer who die in agony for want of pain relief.”
Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General WHO opening remarks at the UN General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem, 19 April 2016
The recommendations from the UNGASS and from a concurrently held, high-level UN meeting on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) require Member States to develop innovative inter-governmental processes and synergies to achieve the 17 goals and their many targets. In order to improve access to palliative care and controlled essential medicines, healthcare providers, government officials, and representatives of UN agencies such as the World Health Organization, must be involved in ongoing ‘multi-stakeholder dialogues’ that will be a feature of this process…read more