October 02, 2007 09:52 ET

Seven Percent of World Population Suffering Unnecessary Cancer Pain

Report Released to Mark World Hospice and Palliative Care Day, October 6

ALEXANDRIA, VA--(Marketwire - October 2, 2007) - A new report, "Access to Pain Relief - an Essential Human Right," published to mark the third annual World Hospice and Palliative Care Day on October 6 ( reports that 80 percent of the world's cancer sufferers have no access to pain relief. Furthermore, seven percent of all people in the world suffer cancer pain that could be relieved but isn't due to lack of access to low cost and effective pain relieving drugs.

"Access to Pain Relief - an Essential Human Right" ( provides a global snapshot of the availability of pain relieving drugs as it relates to many serious and life-limiting illnesses, including AIDS, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and renal disease.

The report is published by the UK's national hospice charity, Help the Hospices, and includes an introduction from the World Health Organization (WHO). The US-based National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization works collaboratively with Help the Hospices to advance global efforts to improve care at the end of life (

Barriers to pain relief

Findings indicate that the main barriers to access are not cost, but rather:

--  lack of education and training
--  bureaucracy and excessively strict legislation
--  misplaced fear of addiction, abuse, tolerance and/or side effects
--  poorly developed health systems and supply chains.

Survey findings include

--  In one hospital in Malawi, aspirin is the only pain killer which is
    'always available.' For children aspirin is not recommended, therefore
    there are no suitable pain killers available.
--  Professional training for 82 percent of the palliative care workers in
    Latin America and 71 percent in Asia did not include either pain relief or
    opioid use.
--  For 41 percent of palliative care providers in Africa and 39 percent
    in Latin America oral morphine is not always available and for 18 percent
    and 21 percent respectively oral morphine is never available.

"For most palliative patients, particularly in developing countries, the cause of pain cannot be removed, therefore it is vital that a reliable supply of pain relieving drugs is available for each patient. Pain is extremely distressing for patients and their friends and families. It decreases people's ability to sleep, carry out everyday activities, work, communicate, concentrate, resolve conflict and address issues which, if thought through, allow peace of mind as the end of life approaches," commented the report's author, pharmacist Vanessa Adams.


In order to prevent millions suffering pain needlessly the report recommends coordinated international and national programs to increase awareness, education, supply and access. The report offers essential steps for improvement.

The complete report is available, free of charge, at

Contact Information

  • Media Contacts
    U.K. contact:
    Jo Pratt
    Help the Hospices
    +44 208 699 6566
    Email Contact.

    U.S. contact:
    Stephen Connor
    National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization
    Email Contact.

    More information on NHPCO's Global Leadership efforts is available at