A survey in Annals of Oncology claims that regulations in many countries to stem drug misuse leave cancer patients without access to opioid medicines for managing cancer pain.
National governments must take urgent action to improve access to these medicines, say the authors. "When one considers that effective treatments are cheap and available, untreated cancer pain and its horrendous consequences for patients and their families is a scandal of global proportions," says Nathan Cherny, an Israeli doctor who is the lead author of the report.
While there are problems with the supply of these medicines in many countries, the main problem is over-regulation that makes it difficult for healthcare professionals to prescribe and administer them for legitimate medical use, the authors say.
"This is a tragedy born out of good intentions," says Cherny. "When opioids are over-regulated, the precautionary measures to prevent abuse and diversion are excessive and impair the ability of healthcare systems to relieve real suffering. The GOPI study has uncovered over-regulation in much of the developing world."
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