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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Opioid Painkiller Access Around The World

If you were asked the question: “What was the leading cause of the American opioid epidemic?" it is likely that you would say that prescription opioid painkillers were the culprit, and you would not be wrong. Every day in the United States, over 40 people die from an overdose on prescription opioids, a staggering number that has lawmakers and health experts scrambling to find solutions. While the American population accounts for five percent of people living on the planet, we use three-quarters of the world’s prescription painkiller supply.

As we continue to face an opioid scourge of epidemic proportions, the majority of other countries struggle to provide pain medications to their citizens experiencing severe pain, The New York Times reports. The reasons for this may not be what you think. It is not due to drug shortages, but rather reluctance among doctors to prescribe opioid narcotics, even to patients living with terminal cancer or AIDS. Often times, in both poor and middle-income countries, opioid analgesics are restricted and/or inaccessible.

Health officials around the world report that a significant number of people are dying in severe pain, according to the article. It has become a human rights issue; and the reasons for this occurrence are varied depending on which country one lives in. A number of physicians in Russia, India and Mexico fear that they will be prosecuted or face other legal problems for ordering prescription opioid painkillers, the article reports. Under Moroccan law, opioids are considered to be poison, a limited number of doctors have permission to prescribe such drugs.

People suffering from pain struggle to access analgesics for a number of reasons, including:
  • Costs
  • Lack of Medical Training
  • Stiff Regulations
  • War on Illicit Drug Use
  • A Stoic Acceptance of Pain Without Complaint
“We shouldn’t forget that these are medicines that are really essential in our health care systems,” said Diederik Lohman, associate director of the health and human rights division at Human Rights Watch. “While clearly there are issues with some prescribing practices, there’s also clearly a risk to vilifying these medicines.”

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