Naloxone not a controlled substance, we encourage its access to prevent overdose – said INCB President

By Bikas Gurung

“Naloxone not a controlled substance, we encourage its access to prevent overdose” – said INCB President.

On March 16, 2018, an Informal NGO Dialogue with the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) was held during the 61st session on the Commission of Narcotics Drugs (CND). INCB President Dr. Viroj Sumyai, in his response to a question posed by the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) pointed out reasons to promote access to Naloxone.

Acknowledging the significance of Naloxone as an antidote to the opioid overdose, Dr. Sumyai first pointed out that Naloxone should be treated as any other ordinary drug. “Naloxone is not a controlled substance under 1961 and 1971 conventions, it is an ordinary drug”, he said. “But this drug in many regions of the world is lacking and is very expensive drug”, he added.

Naloxone is a safe, highly effective rescue medicine for opioid overdose. It has been listed in the core list of WHO’s Essential Medicines and has been endorsed by the WHO, UNODC and UNAIDS Technical Guide for countries to set targets for universal access to HIV prevention, treatment and care for injecting drug users.[1] Though inadequately, only few countries like India, Thailand and China in South and Southeast Asia have included overdose prevention and management as part of their national harm reduction programme.[2]

Further, Dr. Sumyai highlighted the importance of Naloxone to increase access to opioid pain medication (morphine) for patients who suffer cancer, neuropathic and any other severe pain. During one of his missions to a Southeast Asian country, Health Ministry, Doctors and Pharmacists of the respective country reported him that there were morphine injections on the shelf of every hospital but are left to expire rather than administering them to patients in pain.

The reason behind such reluctance, as identified by the doctors was that “There was no Naloxone in the country”. Doctors and nurses were unable to administer morphine due to fear of accidental overdose and lack of Naloxone to rescue from such event.

In October 2017, the news article published in the Guardian reported that – “more than 25 million people, including 2.5 million children, die in agony every year around the world, for want of morphine or other palliative care, according to a major investigation.”[3]

“We encourage the access to Naloxone to prevent overdose-related deaths”, said Dr. Sumyai.

References

[1] WHO, UNODC, UNAIDS Technical Guide for countries to set targets for universal access to HIV prevention, treatment and care for injecting drug users –2012 revision

[2] HRI. The Global State of Harm Reduction 2016

[3] More than 25 million people dying in agony without morphine every year. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/oct/12/more-than-25-million-people-dying-in-agony-without-morphine-every-year

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