Ghada Waly

Director-General/Executive Director


64th CND side event on Access to controlled medicines during COVID-19: Meeting the needs of patients around the world

  15 April 2021

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

I thank Australia and Belgium for co-organizing this important event and mobilizing an impressive group of Member States, international organizations and NGO partners, who care deeply about the issue of unequal access to controlled drugs for medical purposes.

Low- and middle-income countries, which are home to 88 % of the global population, consume less than 10 per cent of all opioids available for the management of pain or palliative care services, including for cancer and HIV patients.

Analysis based on INCB data shows a multitude of reasons that impede access to controlled medicines, which can be linked to regulations, attitudes, and resources, the main barrier being a lack of training and awareness of health care professionals.

As long as inequalities prevail in this area, the world will not be able to realize the right to health and achieve Sustainable Development Goal 3.8 on universal health coverage and essential medicines.

At this session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, we are marking the 60th anniversary of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and the 50th anniversary of the Convention on Psychotropic Substances.

The Conventions provide the framework for ensuring that Governments make adequate provision for the access to, and availability of, controlled medicines for the relief of pain and suffering.

In commemorating these anniversaries, Member States must take the opportunity to do more and do better, in line with the Conventions.

I am pleased to note that focus on this priority has increased in recent years.

Comprehensive approaches have been outlined in the 2016 UNGASS Outcome Document, and in a number of CND resolutions, the latest introducing a welcome emphasis on awareness-raising, education and training.

UNODC supports Member States in fulfilling their commitments, with the goal of increasing the number of patients receiving adequate pain relief and palliative care, while preventing the abuse and misuse of controlled substances.

Together with WHO and the Union for International Cancer Control, we are working to promote patient-centred approaches under the Joint Global Programme launched in 2013 and supported by Australia and Belgium.

To date, the Programme’s work has benefitted close to 20 countries in Africa, Latin America, as well as Central and Southeast Asia, and its activities have included the expansion and strengthening of the palliative care network in Panama; the development of national policy documents and tools in Nigeria; and building a national education curriculum for health care providers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

UNODC’s Strategy for the next five years includes a renewed focus on access to essential controlled medicines, through the Joint Global Programme as well as other strong partnerships, notably with INCB and with the IAEA.

Increasing access to controlled drugs for medical purposes is also an objective of UNODC’s Strategic Vision for Africa 2030.

Guided by our strategic frameworks, UNODC’s work will expand assistance to help countries adapt their legislation and policies, build the capacity of health care professionals, and help bring supply chains in line with the health needs of people.

We call on Member States to increase their support for this work.

Sustained efforts are needed now more than ever, as the COVID-19 pandemic has further limited the availability of controlled medicines to people under medical care. Last August, UNODC joined INCB and WHO in calling on governments to leverage international instruments and work together to remedy this situation.

Ladies and gentlemen,

With health equity high on the international agenda, we need to seize the opportunity to increase advocacy, mobilize investment and provide adequate pain relief and palliative care for all those who need it.

At this crucial time, UNODC is your partner in stepping up efforts to improve access to controlled drugs for medical purposes, and promoting greater cooperation and solidarity in the field of health care.

Thank you.