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Inadequate access to opioid-based pain relief is a human rights issue for cancer patients
Date:2/21/2010

Many cancer patients in Europe are being denied access to adequate pain relief because of over-zealous regulations restricting the availability and accessibility of opioid-based drugs such as morphine.

Authors of the Europe-wide study say that restricting access to pain-killing drugs in this way is a breach of patients' human rights, and they conclude that "there is an ethical and public health imperative to address these issues vigorously and urgently".

The study, which is published online in the cancer journal, Annals of Oncology [1] today (Monday 22 February), is a joint report on the availability and accessibility of opioids for the relief of cancer pain by the European Society for Medical Oncology and the European Association for Palliative Care. The authors collected data from 21 Eastern European countries and 20 Western European countries.

They evaluated the lists of allowed opioid drugs for the management of strong pain (opioid analgesics) for each country, the cost of opioid medication to patients and the regulatory barriers that can make it more difficult, if not impossible, for cancer patients and their doctors to get access to these medications in a timely manner.

They found that in some countries, particularly in Western Europe, access and availability was good (the UK was an example of a country that performed well in this respect), but in other countries, particularly in Eastern Europe, it was much more restricted. In countries, such as Lithuania, Tajikistan, Belarus, Albania, Georgia and Ukraine, some essential opioid medicines were completely unavailable.

The authors say that in many countries the balance between enabling cancer patients to receive the pain relief that they need, while, at the same time, preventing prescription drugs being diverted for substance abuse in illicit drug markets, is weighted too much in favour of the latter.

They write: "Preventing drug abuse is import
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Contact: Emma Mason
wordmason@mac.com
44-771-129-6986
European Society for Medical Oncology
Source:Eurekalert

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