Improving the availability and accessibility of opioids for the treatment of pain: the International Pain Policy Fellowship

Support Care Cancer. 2011 Aug;19(8):1239-47. doi: 10.1007/s00520-011-1200-2. Epub 2011 Jun 3.


Opioid analgesics are simultaneously indispensable medicines for the treatment of moderate to severe pain and are harmful when abused. The challenge for governments is to balance the obligation to prevent diversion, trafficking, and abuse of opioids with the equally important obligation to ensure their availability and accessibility for the relief of pain and suffering. Over the last 30 years, significant progress has been made toward improving access to opioids as measured by increasing global medical opioid consumption. However, this progress is marked by ongoing large disparities among countries, with most increases in medical opioid consumption attributed to high-income countries, not low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). The International Pain Policy Fellowship (IPPF) was developed by the Pain & Policy Studies Group, with the central goal of developing national leaders from LMICs and empowering them to improve availability and accessibility of opioids for the treatment of pain. To date, two classes of fellows have been selected, representing 17 fellows from 15 countries. Progress achieved by the leadership of three fellows from Sierra Leone, Colombia, and Serbia is highlighted in this paper. The fellows from each country were successful at initiating collaboration with relevant governmental bodies, national authorities, and professional societies, which resulted in a new supply of oral opioids in Sierra Leone and Serbia, and improvements in the distribution of already available opioids in Colombia. All fellows were instrumental in facilitating evaluation of national policy. The IPPF program empowers fellows with the necessary knowledge, skills, and guidance to improve the availability and accessibility of opioids for the treatment of pain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / economics
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use*
  • Colombia
  • Fellowships and Scholarships*
  • Global Health
  • Health Policy / trends*
  • Health Services Accessibility*
  • Health Services Needs and Demand*
  • Health Status Indicators
  • Humans
  • Internationality*
  • Pain / drug therapy*
  • Pain / economics
  • Palliative Care
  • Patient Care
  • Serbia
  • Sierra Leone


  • Analgesics, Opioid