Re­port: Mil­lions die amid global opi­oid gap

The Garden Island - - Morning Briefing -

Nearly 26 mil­lion peo­ple around the world die each year with se­ri­ous suf­fer­ing in part be­cause of a huge gap in pain re­lief: The U.S. may be awash in opi­oid painkillers, but they’re rare or un­avail­able in dozens of poor coun­tries, says a new re­port. The chal­lenge is to im­prove pal­lia­tive care in low-in­come coun­tries while avoid­ing mis­takes that led to the U.S. ad­dic­tion cri­sis.

The re­port to be pub­lished Fri­day in The Lancet says one key is us­ing off-patent mor­phine that costs pen­nies a dose — not prof­itable for drug com­pa­nies that push pricier, more pow­er­ful opi­oids in rich coun­tries, but crit­i­cal to eas­ing a health emer­gency.

In some places, even chil­dren dy­ing of cancer or chil­dren in treat­ment for cancer can’t get pain re­lief, said Univer­sity of Mi­ami pro­fes­sor Feli­cia Knaul. She cochaired a Lancet-ap­pointed in­ter­na­tional com­mis­sion that spent three years study­ing the dis­par­ity and what she calls “the moral obli­ga­tion” to help.

“This re­port fi­nally gives voice to the suf­fer­ing and a roadmap to gov­ern­ments,” Knaul said.

Of the few hun­dred tons of mor­phine and equiv­a­lent opi­oids dis­trib­uted world­wide, less than 4 per­cent goes to low- and mid­dle-in­come coun­tries, re­searchers re­ported.

How much is needed? The Lancet Com­mis­sion pro­vided the first global es­ti­mates of the need for pal­lia­tive care, de­fined as “se­ri­ous health-re­lated suf­fer­ing” from cer­tain life-threat­en­ing con­di­tions, in­clud­ing cancer, HIV and trauma.

Some 2.5 mil­lion chil­dren are among the an­nual count of nearly 26 mil­lion who die with­out ad­e­quate re­lief, the team cal­cu­lated. An­other 35.5 mil­lion peo­ple a year have se­ri­ous pain and suf­fer­ing from those con­di­tions but aren’t dy­ing, and most live in low- or mid­dle- in­come coun­tries.

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