The WFSA is pleased to announce the publication of our Position Statement on Opioids, developed by the WFSA’s Pain Management Committee and approved by the Board.
This position statement acknowledges the dilemma between providing access for medication which has proven efficacy, while also potential harms to the public. Opioids are strong pain medications which can be easily abused. The dilemma with these powerful medications is to provide access for conditions where benefit has been demonstrated while protecting the public from the potential harms. This statement states that there should be engagement with patients and clinicians working in multiple medical fields including anaesthesiology, pain medicine, palliative medicine and primary care.
The position statement also draws attention to care in low- and middle-income countries where access to pain management is very limited and the use of opioids is extremely low. Because of a combination of a lack of availability, over-stringent and restrictive laws and a lack of awareness of how to use opioids. Conversely, there is a problem of opioid over-use in high-income countries, notably in North America. This over-use is a result in part to over-zealous prescribing of opioids to treat chronic non-cancer pain. This over and under prescribing needs to be addressed effectively.
“Although a few carefully selected patients may benefit, population-based studies provide limited evidence to support the use of opioids in chronic pain and clearly demonstrate the harm they can cause”.
The WFSA, as a non-state actor in official relations with the World Health Organisation (WHO), has presented statements to the WHO on access to medicines such as opioids and most recently at the World Health Assembly in May 2019. Here we stated that ‘opioids are essential medicines for the management of pain, and an indispensable element of UHC’.