Despite expert recognition that strong opioid analgesics are the cornerstone of treatment for moderate to severe pain, most of the world's population lacks adequate availability of opioids. Moreover, great disparities in availability of opioids continue to exist between higher- and lower-to-middle-income countries. This study examined more than 30 years of consumption data reported to the International Narcotics Control Board, from 1980 to 2011, for five opioids that are indicated for the treatment of moderate to severe pain: fentanyl, hydromorphone, morphine, oxycodone, and pethidine. As such, this study offers a regional and global perspective on opioid consumption, providing an indication of preparedness for treating moderate to severe pain. Countries are categorized according to the World Health Organization's six geographical regions. Morphine equivalence (ME) statistics were calculated for each study drug, allowing for equianalgesic comparisons between consumption of the study opioids and well as the ability to aggregate all study opioids (Total ME). The ME statistic is adjusted for country population, which allows for uniform global-, regional-, and country-level equianalgesic comparisons of consumption of morphine with other opioids. Although overall trend lines revealed general increases by region, profound inequities in opioid consumption continue to abound globally.
Keywords: WHO Regions; global pain disparities; opioid accessibility; opioid availability; opioid consumption; pain.