Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Do national drug control laws ensure the availability of opioids for medical and scientific purposes?

S Asra Husain, Marty Skemp Brown & Martha A Maurer

Objective

To determine whether national drug control laws ensure that opioid drugs are available for medical and scientific purposes, as intended by the 1972 Protocol amendment to the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

Methods

The authors examined whether the text of a convenience sample of drug laws from 15 countries: (i) acknowledged that opioid drugs are indispensable for the relief of pain and suffering; (ii) recognized that government was responsible for ensuring the adequate provision of such drugs for medical and scientific purposes; (iii) designated an administrative body for implementing international drug control conventions; and (iv) acknowledged a government’s intention to implement international conventions, including the Single Convention.

Findings

Most national laws were found not to contain measures that ensured adequate provision of opioid drugs for medical and scientific purposes. Moreover, the model legislation provided by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime did not establish an obligation on national governments to ensure the availability of these drugs for medical use.

Conclusion

To achieve consistency with the Single Convention, as well as with associated resolutions and recommendations of international bodies, national drug control laws and model policies should be updated to include measures that ensure drug availability to balance the restrictions imposed by the existing drug control measures needed to prevent the diversion and nonmedical use of such drugs.

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