Access to pain relief

Access to pain relief

Mamadou, a terminal cancer patient in severe pain whom we visited in Ougadougou, Burkina Faso in December 2019

One of OPIS's key areas of focus is promoting access to effective pain relief for those in need. We are carrying out advocacy and education to help ensure that patients in moderate to severe pain from terminal cancer and other sources of severe heath-related suffering can obtain morphine. This is an issue that affects millions of people in low- and middle-income countries, as documented in a major 2017 Lancet Commission report, and is now also affecting the US as a result of the authorities' drastic response to the opioid crisis, restricting access to pain medication for those in need. We have a close collaboration with Hospice Burkina to improve access to morphine and palliative care in Burkina Faso, and we co-organised a national conference with the Ministry of Health in December 2019.

We are also advocating for better treatments for cluster headaches, one of the most excruciating conditions known to medicine.

The following are some tools and links related to our work on access to morphine:

• Our summary guide for education and advocacy "Ending the Agony: Access to Morphine as an Ethical and Human Rights  Imperative" (March 2018) in EnglishFrenchSpanish and Portuguese

• The press release in EnglishFrench and Spanish of our UN Human Rights Council expert panel event "Ending the Agony: Access to Morphine as an Ethical and Human Rights  Imperative", held on 14 March 2018 in Geneva, in partnership with International Doctors for Healthier Drug Policies

A 4-minute video montage with highlights and key messages from our Human Rights Council expert panel event

OPIS-IDHDP contribution to OHCHR report on implementation of UNGASS joint commitment re: world drug problem and human rights, May 2018


An article by Jonathan Leighton from OPIS (May 2018): Why Access to Morphine is a Human Right


An interview by the Spanish news network "La Sexta" with Manu Herrán from OPIS about the opioid crisis in the US and how the misguided response is depriving patients with severe chronic pain of the medications they need

"The other opioid crisis" - an article citing OPIS's work in the winter 2018 edition of New Humanist magazine. "While all the attention is on western drug misuse, 80 per cent of the world’s population goes without sufficient pain relief treatment."

"Problèmes d'accès aux antidouleurs à base de morphine, considérés comme des drogues": Reportage in French on Swiss public radio (21 March 2019) on the problem of access to morphine, including an interview with Jonathan Leighton of OPIS that took place on 14 March 2019 during the 62nd session of the UN's Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna

Read about our collaboration with Hospice Burkina to facilitate access to pain relief in Burkina Faso, including a national conference with the Ministry of Health.

"How a Local Champion Can Bring the Government on Board", an article we wrote for the bulletin of Swiss health network Medicus Mundi.
Prof. Felicia Knaul, Chair of the Lancet Commission on Global Access to Palliative Care and Pain Control, called this article an "important read on how to close the global pain divide at the national level."

We welcome support for our efforts to facilitate access to pain relief. Please consider making a donation to OPIS here.

This document provides an analysis of the effectiveness of supporting projects to extend access to morphine, and why they could be among the most cost-effective ways of relieving human suffering.


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