Dr. James Cleary comments on barriers to pain medication access in developing nations

Dr. James Cleary

A feature story in the New York Times focused on 'opiophobia' in developing nations. 

The term was used in a major study by the Lancet Commission on Global Access to Palliative Care and Pain Relief to describe the lack of access to painkillers faced by patients in developing nations with extreme end-of-life pain. 

While the United States produces or imports 31 times as much narcotic pain-relieving drugs it needs, whether in legal or illegal form, many nations have almost no access. 

Nigeria, for example, obtains only 0.2 percent of needed narcotics, Haiti has 1 percent, and Indonesia has 4 percent. 

“Each country has its own barriers,” said James Cleary, MD, professor, Hematology, Medical Oncology and Palliative Care and a member of the Lancet commission. This scenario leads to agony and suffering for patients in many parts of the world.