One is a side event (events that are not part of the main agenda but often very important in sharing information to member state delegates and NGOs) organized by the Govt of Australia, the UNODC’s Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation Section, and the World Health Organization. This side event is entitled “COORDINATED EFFORTS TO INCREASE ACCESS TO CONTROLLED DRUGS FOR MEDICAL AND SCIENTIFIC PURPOSES.” This is particularly important as Mr Yury Fedetov, the Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) will be speaking at this side event! For too long, access to controlled substances has taken a very back seat at CND! We look forward to Mr Fedetov’s comments as well as from speakers from India, Italy, Panama and Wisconsin!
The other extraordinary event relates to the High level meeting that took place on March 13-14. Senior government officials met as part of the preparation of a UN General Assembly Special Session in 2016 on an “Integrated and Balanced Strategy to Counter the World Drug Problem. A joint ministeral Statement was released.
Of the discussions over the two days are number were particularly strong in terms of access to controlled medicines!
From the WHO:
From the WHO perspective it is essential that all the efforts to address the world drug problem do not compromise fundamental aspects of the international drug control system – protection of public health. For example, the access to controlled medicines for the relief of pain and suffering should be ensured in all cases while preventing diversion and abuse. It is estimated that worldwide 5.6 billion people live in countries with low to non-existent access to controlled medicines. The Political Declaration of the High-level Meeting of the UN General Assembly and the WHO global action plan for the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases 2013-2020 put particular emphasis on access to controlled medicines for pain management in palliative care. Equally, despite strong evidence of efficacy, treatment of opioid dependence with long-acting opioid agonists is frequently unavailable.
Mr Chair, a key challenge for all of us is the problem of inequitable access to controlled drugs for medical purposes. The harsh reality is that the majority of the world’s population does not have adequate access to medical opiates for pain relief and palliative care. The barriers to access and availability need to be urgently addressed.
It has been important to Australia, working with other interested parties at recent Sessions of the Commission, to focus attention on ensuring appropriate access to medical opiates and other controlled drugs for legitimate medical and scientific needs
The international community has a moral obligation to achieve a better balance between the demand for and the supply of those drugs and substances in order to ensure the relief of pain and suffering.
Recent considerations by the World Health Organization in relation to improving access to palliative care have recognised the need to ensure adequate access to controlled medicines and highlight the need for us all to work toward improving access.
Australia is pleased to have supported the efforts of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in revising its model law relating to availability and accessibility to controlled drugs for medical purposes.
Australia is also very pleased to be supporting the UNODC’s efforts in cooperation with the World Health Organization and the Union of International Cancer Control in the delivery of in-country training for policy makers, drug control authorities and health professionals, with the first of these projects recently commencing in Ghana. The international community must build on the momentum generated in addressing this global challenge.
We are concerned by the tragedy of the inadequate availability of opioid analgesics. The WHO estimates that millions of people annually fail to receive adequate treatment for moderate to severe pain. We need to recognize their suffering as an unintended and unacceptable side-effect of drug control. We are responsible for ensuring the availability of internationally controlled substances for medical and scientific purposes, and we urgently need to address this challenge.
and from India:
The original spirit of the UN Drug control Conventions is about protecting the “health and welfare of mankind”. Public health is furthered not only by preventing the abuse of drugs, but also by making them adequately available for the purpose for which they are meant – alleviating the pain and suffering of those in need. With over 2 million cancer patients and an equal number of HIV – Aids patients in our country every year, half of whom suffer from moderate to severe pain, there is no dearth of such needy people in India. Unfortunately, however, they have not had the desired level of access to opioids for pain relief. Ironically, this is so even as India is a licit and traditional producer and exporter of the „Opiate Raw Material‟ – opium, which is the source of the drugs needed for pain relief. While interplay of several factors has led to this situation, one of them is the issue of complex regulations leading to requirement of multiple licenses for access to these drugs. I am happy to announce that the Indian Parliament has very recently passed amendments to the principal drug enactment in the country which will enable uniform and simplified rules to be notified by the Central Government, leading to removal of the regulatory barriers that have been acting as hindrances to availability of such drugs for pain relief. Such amendments were drafted with the active participation of civil society and the palliative care community. With these amendments, our drug enactment incorporates the „Principle of Balance‟ espoused by the UN drug control Conventions.
So follow along this week using twitter (#CND2014 and #Hpmglobal) and other Social Media channels. Let you voice be heard in this important discussion. And join #hpmglobal chat at 12 n GMT on Monday March 17th to discuss opioid access issues (thats 11pm in Sydney, 8am in New York and 1pm in Vienna).