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Survey Finds Low Availability of Pain Relief Drugs in Many Countries

Madison, Wisconsin - In a first-of-its-kind survey, a University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health researcher found that access to opioids for cancer pain relief is impaired in large parts of the world by lack of availability and overregulation.


“Preventing drug abuse is important. But it should not hinder patients' ability to get the care they need and deserve.”


- Dr. Jim Cleary

Dr. Jim Cleary, an oncologist from the University of Wisconsin Pain and Policy Studies Group, collaborated with several organizations, including the European Society of Medical Oncology and the World Health Organization (WHO), to do some fact-finding about pain relief drug availability in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East and India.


The international collaboration is the largest and most comprehensive study of opioid availability and accessibility. The five papers outlining the results of the survey, published in the Annals of Oncology, were written by Cleary.


Cleary said adequate pain relief is a main goal for cancer patients, especially those with advanced and incurable cancer.


“Many organizations representing health care professionals feel that adequate relief of cancer pain is a human right,” said Cleary. “But this is not a universal among many nations that we surveyed.”


The survey says that the availability of opioids for pain relief is critically low in most of India and Africa. In addition, availability is low in most of Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and the Caribbean.


The survey questionnaire asked about the availability of seven drugs: codeine, morphine, injectable morphine, oxycodone, fentanyl and methadone. Seventeen collaborating palliative care and oncology organizations in the areas studied helped with identification of infield surveyors, compliance with data submission requirements and deadlines and in the process of open peer review of the preliminary data.


Cleary and his co-authors state that ideally, international and local regulations of opioid manufacture, distribution, storage prescription and dispensing should attempt to maintain a balance between good patient care and drug diversion.


“Preventing drug abuse is important,” said Cleary. “But it should not hinder patients’ ability to get the care they need and deserve.”

Date Published: 12/02/2013

News tag(s):  researchcancerhealth policy

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Last updated: 03/06/2014
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