Millions die suffering amid global opioid gap, report says

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Over 25.5 million people, including 2.5 million children, globally die every year with serious health issues that require palliative care.

The absence of morphine, essential in palliative and end-of-life care, in many low and middle-income countries is "emblematic of the most extreme inequity in the world", the report states.

The study said global policies restricting access to opioids mean that millions of people are denied medicines to relieve pain linked to illness or injury. She co-chaired a Lancet- appointed worldwide commission that spent three years studying the disparity and what she calls "the moral obligation" to help. The Lancet Commission provided the first global estimates of the need for palliative care, defined as "serious health-related suffering" from certain life-threatening conditions, including cancer, HIV and trauma.

Poor people around the world live and die with little or no pain relief or palliative care, a report published today in the medical journal, Lancet, said, calling the fact a "medical, public health, and moral failing and a travesty of justice".

The study, commissioned by The Lancet, was conducted by the Commission on Global Access to Palliative Care and Pain Relief.

In 2015, an estimated 25.5-million people died with serious health-related suffering - equivalent to almost half of all deaths worldwide.

Another 35.5 million people a year have serious pain and suffering from those conditions but aren't dying, and most live in low- or middle- income countries.

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Some 2.5 million children are among the annual count of almost 26 million who die without adequate relief, the team calculated.

Failure of health systems The authors note that nearly 80% of deaths requiring palliative care in low income countries are preventable with adequate prevention, treatment and care interventions. "Even basic pain management and principles of palliative care are still not being taught to medical and nursing students", says Dr. Rajagopal.

The report calls for new methods to measure health progress that include suffering, and for the inclusion of palliative care as part of the universal health insurance governments offer their citizens.

The most common symptoms of suffering were pain, depressed mood, anxiety, fatigue and weakness.

The authors of the study have developed an essential package of palliative care services - including medicines, equipment and staffing models - to be made available by health systems worldwide.

Created to be low-priced and covering medicines, basic equipment and human resources, one of the minimum requirements is the availability of oral or injectable morphine.

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