For information only - not an official document

1 February 2019

Statement of the President of the International Narcotics Control Board, Viroj Sumyai,
on the occasion of World Cancer Day

4 February 2019

VIENNA, 1 February 2019 (UN Information Service) - Too many people, especially cancer patients, still suffer or die in pain or do not have access to the medicine they need. Unnecessary suffering resulting from a lack of appropriate and affordable medication due to inaction is a situation that shames us all. 

To mark World Cancer Day, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) is calling on the international community to fulfil its promise to ensure and not to unduly restrict, the availability of drugs that are considered indispensable for medical and scientific purposes. This is the obligation of Member States, made with the adoption of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961 as amended by the 1972 Protocol.

The INCB annual report for 2018, to be launched in Vienna on 5 March 2019, will be accompanied by a special publication on the availability of internationally controlled medicines.

The report will show that, despite a global increase in the availability of opioid analgesics for consumption, mostly in high-income countries, global disparity and imbalance remain evident. The limited availability of opioid analgesics in low- and middle-income countries is a cause of great concern, as many of the conditions requiring pain management, including cancer, are increasingly prevalent in such areas of the world. The medicines and knowledge to alleviate the situation exist and are affordable.

The report will show in detail that a very low proportion of the morphine globally available is actually used for the treatment of pain and in palliative care.

The INCB report on availability will review the progress being made by Member States to improve availability of controlled medicines, as well as the perspective of civil society organizations.  In the report, the Board will set out the further steps that need to be taken, particularly in national health systems.

On World Cancer Day, I urge Governments to give due priority to ensuring that cancer patients have adequate access to affordable pain treatment and palliative care.


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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INCB Secretariat
Telephone for media inquiries: (+43-1) 26060 4163