Press Releases

    26 May 2005

    Critical Shortage of Drugs for Pain Relief, Says INCB

    VIENNA, 26 May (UN Information Service) -- In his address to the 58th session of the World Health Assembly, Professor Hamid Ghodse, President of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), drew attention to the shortage of essential narcotic drugs needed for medical and scientific purposes.  “Opioid analgesics are not always available for the people who need them, particularly in developing countries,” the President said.

    The World Health Assembly, attended by Ministers of Health and delegates from 192 countries around the world, recently concluded in Geneva, Switzerland on Wednesday, 25 May.

    As the INCB pointed out in its most recent Annual Report, in 2003, six countries together accounted for 79 per cent of the global consumption of morphine. “Developing countries, which represent about 80 per cent of the world’s population, accounted for only about 6 per cent of the global consumption of morphine,” the INCB President said, adding that this resulted in many governments not being able to provide adequate care for the thousands of patients suffering from cancer or AIDS.

     “According to WHO projections, 10 million cancer cases per year will occur in developing countries by the year 2015. If the availability of drugs in developing countries is not improved, lack of access to opioid analgesics will cause massive amounts of unnecessary pain and suffering,” Professor Ghodse said.

    “The situation becomes even graver when crises occur. One in five Member States of the World Health Organization (WHO) experiences a humanitarian crisis every year and thousands of people around the globe are in crisis conditions at this very moment. In situations of crises or natural disasters such as the December 2004 tsunami, essential drugs are part of the supplies needed. They should therefore be available at all times in adequate amounts and in the appropriate dosage forms to satisfy the healthcare needs of the majority of the population,” he added.

    Professor Ghodse also welcomed the adoption of a resolution on cancer prevention and control by the World Health Assembly which requests Member States to ensure the medical availability of opioid analgesics according to the international treaties and recommendations of WHO and INCB. “Making narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances available to the large number of people suffering from cancer and AIDS pain are not only important objectives of public health but they will also bring peace to the suffering and their families”, he said. “The key to achieving appropriate use of controlled medicines and prevention of illicit use is education of health care professionals in the rational use of drugs.”

    WHO and INCB cooperate closely in order to further advance the medical use of drugs and to ensure adequate provision of drugs for medical purposes, while preventing their diversion into illicit markets.


    For further information, contact:
    Beate Hammond, Drug Control Officer, INCB Secretariat,
    Tel. +(43) 1 26060 5482