Access to Opioid Medicines for Pain and the Treatment of Drug Dependency

The Problem: 

The under-treatment of pain is a major public health problem. In many parts of the world, access to essential medicines is severely limited resulting in preventable suffering on a massive scale. Therapeutics opioids – like morphine, methadone and codeine – are highly effective in the treatment of pain and addiction. These drugs are relatively inexpensive and, when properly administered and prescribed, safe for all sorts of legitimate medical uses. Yet, access to these essential drugs is obstructed by unduly restrictive national laws and policies.

Our Work: 

CHLPP Co-Center Director Scott Burris and Legal Fellow Evan Anderson work on a range of projects related to this issue at the national and global levels. The primary aim of these projects has been to reduce the legal impediments to opioid access found in many national laws. This work, funded by the Development Fund of the U.K. (DFID), has involved legal analysis of international treaties and national laws and participation in legal reform in the highest levels of the international health community. In the course of these efforts, they have published scholarly pieces, comprehensive reports, and a set of case studies about successful legal reform in four diverse countries. Burris has served as a delegate to the U.N. Comission on Narcotic Drugs and worked with diplomats from around the world to shape policies that promote a balance between drug control and access. Our work in this area has been built on a  collaboration with the Pain Policy and Studies Group at the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center, a WHO Collaborating Center, and the AIDS Projects Management Group. Collectively, this group comprises the Drug Control and Access to Medicines Consortium (DCAM).