Essential medicines and health products

The Access to Controlled Medications Programme

Improving access to analgesics and other controlled medications worldwide

In many parts of the world, patients suffering severe pain face immense challenges in obtaining pain relief, because the opioids that could provide such relief have been categorized as "controlled substances". They are, therefore, subject to strong international control and rendered inaccessible.

The proposed Access to Controlled Medications Programme will address the main causes for impaired access. These causes are essentially an imbalance between the prevention of abuse of controlled substances and their use for legitimate medical purposes.

The programme as proposed, will therefore address regulatory barriers, the functioning of the estimate system for importing/exporting by the countries and education of health-care professionals and others involved. It will organize regional workshops where health-care providers, legislators and law enforcers will exchange their views and the problems they encounter. It will train civil servants responsible for submitting estimates in doing so and train health-care providers in the rational use of opioids. Furthermore, it will develop other activities, including advocacy.

The main categories of medicines involved are: opioid analgesics, opioids for the treatment of opioid dependence and medicines used in delivery.


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