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ESMO Press Release: ESMO, UICC, NCD Alliance and Other Endorsing Partners Issue Palliative Care Statement at WHA

67th World Health Assembly adopts the ‘Strengthening of palliative care as a component of integrated treatment throughout the life course’ resolution
23 May 2014

Lugano, Switzerland -- ESMO, UICC, the NCD Alliance and other endorsing partners have delivered a joint statement at the 67th World Health Assembly in Geneva supporting the adoption of the ‘Strengthening of palliative care as a component of integrated treatment throughout the life course’ resolution.

“We are united in our belief that palliative care is an essential health service for people with chronic and life-limiting illnesses - including HIV/AIDS and advanced NCDs such as diabetes, dementias, cancer, heart and lung disease,” states the joint declaration.


“I am appalled by the global scope of untreated and unrelieved cancer pain,” said Nathan Cherny, ESMO spokesperson, leading the collaborative Global Opioid Policy initiative.

In a recent report the WHO estimated that over 20 million people are in need of palliative care worldwide, including 1.2 million children. Without access to palliative care people face debilitating symptoms such as pain, shortness of breath, anxiety, depression. And yet in much of the world, palliative care is neither available nor accessible. The global disparities are vast and unacceptable: high-income countries consume 93% of the world’s morphine supply, but 80% of deaths from non-communicable diseases occur in low- and middle- income countries.  

Assisting countries on how to address palliative care issues nationally are the ESMO-led surveys on access to Palliative Care in Europe (1) and internationally (2). The survey data provides evidence of the seven major existing barriers in many countries and offers a 10-point action plan (3) of recommendations on how to overcome them at the national level.

National governments are called upon to:

  • Develop and integrate palliative care standards and policies into health systems and embed them in national NCD plans;
  • Offer on-going basic, intermediate and specialist training and education in palliative care built on existing curricula adapted to local settings;
  • Review legislation and policy for controlled medicines including formulary restrictions, patient and prescriber restrictions and prescription limits;
  • Update national essential medicine lists in light of the new sections on pain medicines in the WHO EML. 


Notes to Editor


  1. The ESMO-EAPC European Opioid Policy Initiative
  2. The ESMO-led Global Opioid Policy Initiative (GOPI) project results: Availability & accessibility - policy reform is necessary worldwide to improve severe cancer pain management & unnecessary suffering
  3. The ESMO-led Global Opioid Policy Initiative (GOPI) project: Next Steps

(*) European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO), Union for International Cancer Control (UICC),
+ the following endorsing organisations:

  • ALCP: Latin American Association for Palliative Care
  • APCA: African Palliative Care Association
  • EAPC: European Association for Palliative Care
  • IAHPC: International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care
  • IAPC : Indian Association of Palliative Care
  • Indian Society of Medical & Pediatric Oncology
  • MASCC: Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer
  • MECC: Middle East Cancer Consortium
  • SAARC Federation of Oncology
  • SLACOM: Latin American and Caribbean Society of Medical Oncology
  • WPCA: World Palliative Care Alliance (WPCA)
Last update: 23 May 2014

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