Facts and Figures

Access to medicines, including opioid analgesics and other controlled medicines, are needed for the management of pain, palliative care, epilepsy and the treatment of substance use and dependence. Many controlled medicines, including opioids, are in the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines. National drug policies need to find a balance between enforcing controls and ensuring controlled medicines are accessible. Moreover, it is imperative that controlled medicines are used safely and effectively.

50% of the world population currently receives only about 1% of the morphine distributed worldwide.

Distributed opioid morphine-equivalent (morphine in mg/patient in need of palliative care, average 2010–13), and estimated percentage of need that is met for the health conditions most associated with serious health-related suffering   
[Knaul, F. M., Bhadelia, A., Rodriguez, N. M., Arreola-Ornelas, H., & Zimmermann, C. (2018).
The Lancet Commission on Palliative Care and Pain Relief—findings, recommendations, and future directions. The Lancet Global Health, 6, S5-S6.]


 There are many barriers to adequate use including:

  • Poor prescribing and dispensing practices
  • Inefficient medicine supply and distribution systems
  • Lack of staff qualified to prescribe opioids
  • Insufficient financing to procure medicines including controlled medicines
  • High costs of medicines