For information only - not an official document

28 September 2018

INCB President urges Governments to prioritize access to controlled medicines and drug abuse prevention and treatment, addressing General Assembly high-level meeting on non-communicable diseases

NEW YORK/VIENNA, 28 September (UN Information Service) - Speaking at the General Assembly high-level meeting on non-communicable diseases (NCDs), the President of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), Dr. Viroj Sumyai, urged the international community to prioritize access to internationally controlled medicines as well as the prevention and treatment of drug use disorders.

The INCB President emphasized that, as well as being a non-communicable disease, drug dependence is a mental health issue that is preventable, treatable and curable. Drug dependence accounts for almost one per cent of the global burden of disease. The INCB Annual Report 2017 provided specific recommendations to Governments to improve coverage and quality of treatment, rehabilitation and social reintegration for drug use disorders.

Mechanisms to prevent drug abuse must be strengthened and included in efforts to change lifestyle and habits, in the same way prevention programmes work for other diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes. As parties to the United Nations drug control treaties, Member States have an obligation to take all practicable measures for prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and social reintegration.

On prioritizing access to internationally controlled medicines, Dr. Sumyai noted that these substances were important for treating disease, such as neurological or mental health disorders, including opioid dependence. These medicines are also important for relieving the symptoms of some NCDs, such as pain or in palliative care for cancer patients, and for medical procedures. Member States, in adopting the international drug control treaties, decided to put in place measures to ensure the availability of drugs indispensable for medical and scientific purposes while preventing their abuse.

However, levels of opioid consumption vary greatly in different regions of the world and are not in line with needs. Eighty per cent of the world population, mainly in low- and lower middle-income countries, consume only 14 per cent of the morphine globally available for pain management. Morphine is the most affordable opioid, Dr. Sumyai said, and "if morphine availability increased in low- and middle-income countries, it would significantly reduce the gap between the need for pain treatment and its accessibility in low- and middle-income countries". The average level of opioid consumption in North America is almost 400 times higher than in South Asia.

INCB will be publishing a special updated report addressing this matter and proposing remedial measures in early 2019.

In the context of the right to health and promoting health and well-being, the INCB President urged Governments to take three specific actions:

(i)            to ascertain that estimates of national requirements for controlled medicines accurately reflect the needs of patients;

(ii)           to include drug use disorders in national NCD prevention and treatment plans; and

(iii)          to ensure resources and training to enable health professionals to prevent, diagnose and treat drug use disorders.


INCB is the independent, quasi-judicial body charged with promoting and monitoring Government compliance with the three international drug control conventions: the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and the 1988 Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. Established by the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961,  the thirteen members of the Board are elected in a personal capacity by the Economic and Social Council for terms of five years.

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For further information, please contact:

INCB Secretariat
Telephone for media inquiries: (+43-1) 26060 4163
Email:  incb.secretariat[at]