World Medical Association urges End to Unneccessary Pain for Millions

(16.10.2011) Tens of millions of people with cancer and other diseases and conditions are experiencing unnecessary pain without access to adequate treatment, according to the World Medical Association. They faced severe suffering, often for months on end, and many eventually died in pain, which was unnecessary and almost always preventable and treatable. Children and people with intellectual disabilities were especially at risk of receiving inadequate pain treatment.

At its annual General Assembly in Montevideo, Uruguay, the WMA put forward a series of proposals to improve patients' access to adequate pain treatment. It said that in most cases, pain could be stopped or relieved with inexpensive and relatively simple treatment, which could dramatically improve the quality of life for patients.

Two major reasons for the gap in treatment were a lack of education for health professionals in the assessment and treatment of pain, and unnecessarily restrictive government regulations, including limiting access to opioid pain medications.

Dr. Mukesh Haikerwal, chair of the WMA, said: ‘Physicians and other health care professionals have an ethical duty to offer proper clinical assessments to patients with pain and to offer appropriate treatment. This may require prescribing medications, including opioid analgesics.

‘We would like to see instruction on pain management included in the mandatory curricula and continuing education for physicians and other health professionals. And Governments must ensure the adequate availability of controlled medicines, including opioids, for the relief of pain.'

A WMA resolution said that people facing pain had a right to appropriate pain management, including effective medications such as morphine. Denial of pain treatment violated the right to health and might be medically unethical.

It declared that countries should review their drug control policies to ensure they did not unnecessarily restrict the availability and accessibility of controlled medicines for the treatment of pain. Each government should also provide resources for the development and implementation of a national pain treatment plan, including a responsive monitoring mechanism for receiving complaints when pain was inadequately treated.