World cancer leaders  this week  launched the Global Access to Pain Relief Initiative (GAPRI) and called for universal access to controlled pain medication for cancer patients worldwide.

In a joint statement released at the World Cancer Leaders’€™ Summit taking place at the World Cancer Congress, the American Cancer Society, LIVESTRONG, the World Economic Forum and the World Health Organisation said the pain of cancer could be safely and effectively treated through the use of opoid analgesics such as morphine.

In South Africa, morphine is on the Essential Drug List, however, most clinics do not stock it and dispense paracetamol for patients who need more powerful pain medication. Morphine can only be prescribed by a doctor in South Africa and often only a month’€™s supply at a time.

In many countries patients are only given three days’€™ supply of morphine if at all. In parts of India five doctors have to sign a script before a patient is given morphine.

Pain experts believe the barriers to allowing patients access to morphine is mostly due to ignorance. Morphine is safe, cheap, easy and effective if used properly. Most patients do not become addicted and are active and alert are three days of use.

GAPRI is expected to play a major role in meeting World Cancer Declaration target eight ‘€“ one of 11 targets which aim to reverse the cancer epidemic by 2020.

‘€œIt’€™s a moral and ethical failure,’€ said Doug Ulman, President of LIVESTRONG and three times cancer survivor. ‘€œWhile we know how to treat the pain, only a tiny percentage of people who need it most are getting it,’€ said Ulman.

GAPRI has spelt out at action plan which will make universally pain control measures universally available, however it needs to be funded and the next step will be for the architects of the plan to convince big donors to step up to the plate.

Nearly 12.7-million cancer cases and 7.6-million deaths to the disease were reported in 2008. The number of cancer cases and related deaths worldwide is estimated to double over the next 20 to 40 years. The greatest increase is expected in low and middle-income countries and by 2030 it is predicted that there will be 26-million new cancer cases and 17 million cancer deaths per year.


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