An ESMO statement was delivered by the ESMO Director of Public Policy, Rosa Giuliani, on the topic of ‘The Public Health Dimension of the World Drug Problem’, during the World Health Assembly (WHA75), 22-28 May 2022.
Rosa Giuliani, ESMO Director of Public Policy
ESMO Statement for Improved Access to Controlled Medicines
ESMO welcomed the WHO Director General’s Report on the World Drug Problem and the need to improve access to controlled medicines which are used for legitimate medical purposes to relieve pain and suffering.
WHO statistics state only 14% of people in need of palliative care each year actually receive it due to unnecessarily restrictive regulatory barrier, and ESMO finds this unacceptable. The ESMO statement raised awareness that the ESMO Global Opioid Policy Initiative provided 10 recommendations to reduce those barriers. In addition, ESMO requested that countries at least provide patients the palliative care medicines on the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines, and that licensed physicians are properly trained to use opioid medications to relieve cancer pain.
The WHO report on this topic noted that WHO will publish Guidelines on the safe use and access to controlled medicines in 2022.
The WHA noted the WHO Director-General’s report and decided to request the Director-General to continue to report to the Health Assembly every two years until 2030 on WHO’s activities to address the public health dimensions of the world drug problem and progress made in the implementation of decision WHA70(18)(2017).
- The World Health Assembly is the decision-making body of WHO. It is attended by delegations from all WHO Member States and focuses on a specific health agenda prepared by the Executive Board. The theme of the 2022 World Health Assembly is: Health for peace, peace for health.
- The ESMO Designated Centres Accreditation Programme recognises cancer centres that provide highly integrated oncology and palliative care services.
- The ESMO Fellowship Program offers palliative care fellowships designed to provide oncologists or oncology fellows additional experience in palliative care training.
- In 2022, the ESMO statement at the WHO Executive Board Meeting called for, among others for WHO Member States to ensure continued patient access to essential cancer and palliative care medicines and services that are affordable and do not compete with resources for health emergencies.
- In 2018, ESMO published an ESMO position paper on supportive and palliative care, noting that these services should start at the time of diagnosis and continue through to end-of-life or survivorship. The publication follows the 2003 ESMO stand on supportive and palliative care.
- In 2016, ESMO supported a successful international initiative to ensure that the Outcome Document of the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem contained recommendation to ensure access to controlled substances, such as opioids, for legitimate medical and scientific purposes, while preventing their diversion for improper use.
- In 2014, ESMO, the UICC, the NCD Alliance and other endorsing partners issued a joint palliative care statement at World Health Assembly supporting the successful adoption of the WHO Resolution ‘Strengthening of palliative care as a component of integrated treatment throughout the life course’, which calls for increased access to palliative care to relieve unnecessary suffering worldwide.