Minimal standards of palliative care needed

Leslie Hanson
October 13, 2017

Washington, Oct 13 almost 26 million people around the world die each year with serious suffering in part because of a huge gap in pain relief: The US may be awash in opioid painkillers, but they're rare or unavailable in dozens of poor countries, says a new report.

The study says off-patent, inexpensive, oral morphine for pain relief costs as little as 3 cents per 10 mg.

The study said global policies restricting access to opioids mean that millions of people are denied medicines to relieve pain linked to illness or injury.

The Lancet study provides the first worldwide estimates of serious, health-related suffering and the resultant need for palliative care and pain relief.

"Inequity in access to essential pain relief for palliative care and pain relief is one of the world's most striking injustices".

The report - chaired by the University of Miami's Felicia Knaul, a professor at the Department of Public Health Sciences, and co-authored by UM President Julio Frenk - found that millions around the world die in deep agony because they don't have access to something as affordable as a three-cent morphine tablet that could easily alleviate their pain.

"We can not allow opiophobia to keep affordable, essential medicines from low-income patients in agony as they fight diseases such as cancer, HIV or near end of life".

Addressing morphine access is even less costly. A sixth of these people, who need palliative care, are in India. Nearly all (98%) of these children live in low and middle-income countries.

It says the number of people who experience serious health-related suffering is much higher, with an additional 35.5 million requiring pain relief outside of end-of-life care. At least 5 billion people live in countries affected by the crisis of under-consumption, and more than 18 million annually die with treatable pain.

The report calls for new methods to measure health progress that include suffering, and for the inclusion of palliative care as part of the universal health insurance governments offer their citizens. Yet a basic palliative care package, which includes key medications and personal care, is not expensive, costing about US$2.40 per capita per year in low income countries and US$0.75 in lower-middle income countries. More than 90% of these child deaths are from avoidable causes.

The most common symptoms of suffering were pain, depressed mood, anxiety, fatigue and weakness.

Created to be low-priced and covering medicines, basic equipment and human resources, one of the minimum requirements is the availability of oral or injectable morphine.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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