Este artículo presenta un resumen breve pero conciso de la labor de la Organización Mundial de la Salud (OMS) y otras organizaciones con respecto a los medicamentos controlados, ofreciendo unos recursos muy útiles e información sobre cómo se puede apoyar el debate. Más información, en inglés, está disponible abajo.

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The UN General Assembly will hold a Special Session (UNGASS) on the World Drug Problem on 19-21 April 2016. A major opportunity to address the issue of limited availability of controlled medicines in much of the world.

5.5 million people in needless pain

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that each year 5.5 million terminal cancer patients suffer moderate to severe pain that is not managed at all. An absurd number considering that moderate to severe pain can be easily treated with inexpensive, safe and easy to administer opioid analgesics such as morphine.

Yet as it currently stands, 92% of the world’s morphine is consumed by 17% of the world’s population, essentially in high-income countries, while low- and middle-income countries, which account for 83% of the global population, consume only 8% of the medical morphine.

Global access to pain relief: a public health issue

In recent years, the cancer and wider health community have been pressing governments to ensure that access to pain relief and palliative care is prioritised within the world health and development agenda, with efforts being rewarded by UN Member States finally passing a ground-breaking resolution on palliative care at the 2014 World Health Assembly. It is hoped that this resolutionStrengthening of palliative care as a component of comprehensive care throughout the life course’, will help drive national action to reduce barriers to the accessibility and availability of palliative care. 

Yet despite great step, little progress has been made since, and access to pain medicines remains constrained by several well-known barriers including inadequate training of healthcare workers, misconceptions about pain and its treatment with morphine and other opioids, and overly restrictive laws and regulations. The UN Member States are also facing an important drug control related challenge: ensuring the availability of controlled substances for medical and scientific purposes while preventing their misuse and diversion. To date, however, few countries have achieved this objective.

April 2016: time to put words into action

UNGASS 2016 is therefore a major opportunity for palliative care advocates to ensure that the availability of controlled medicines gets the attention it needs and deserves and that the international community acts to resolve this longstanding problem that causes millions to experience unnecessary pain each year.

Although UN bodies and agencies have repeatedly expressed concern about the limited availability of controlled medicines, a concerted, multi-sectorial response has yet to be implemented. Progress on this issues requires a whole-of-UN response, as it involves regulatory and enforcement infrastructure, health system strengthening, including health worker training, and development-related measures.

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