ATOME Project Issues Final Report on Access to Opioids

Jan 22, 2015

European regulatory and law enforcement authorities, policymakers, opinion leaders, and health-care professionals will find valuable information in a report published in November by the Access to Opioid Medication in Europe (ATOME) project. Funded under the European Union's 7th Framework Programme, the project investigated why opioid medicines to treat moderate to severe pain and opioid dependence are not used adequately in 12 Eastern European countries. The report also recommends specific solutions for improved access to opioid medicines in these countries.

The 12 countries are Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Turkey. Key recommendations to the respective ministries of health cover barriers for adequate access to opioid medicines that ATOME identified in the countries' national legislation and national policies.

Key recommendations of the report:

  • Implement the WHO policy guidelines Ensuring Balance in National Policies on Controlled Substances, Guidance for Availability and Accessibility for Controlled Medicines, which are supported by IASP.
  • Identify potential legal and regulatory barriers to access to opioid medicines and work on changes with the aim to improve accessibility, availability, and affordability.
  • Ensure non-stigmatizing language in legal documents and language in official documents (for example, by using the term "narcotic drug" only when referring to substances controlled under the Single Convention).
  • Establish regular exchange opportunities (communication networks) between legal and governmental authorities, health-care professionals and patients and their families in order to raise awareness for practical impact and requirements of legal and policy decisions (target-performance comparison) regarding opioid availability and accessibility.
  • Provide and support the implementation and development of national databases (including data on long-term outcomes and national fear of opioids) suitable for scientific research, evaluation of models of treatment with opioids, and for monitoring the national demand on essential medicines.
  • Ensure that treatment with opioids (knowledge, skills, and attitudes) will be included in undergraduate and postgraduate education for relevant health-care professionals (primarily physicians, nurses, and pharmacists).
  • Raise awareness and sensitization for treatment with opioids among practicing health-care professionals (for example, via Continuing Medical Education, publication series on the rational use of opioids in highly accessed national medical journals, or a survey on knowledge and attitudes regarding opioid medicines).
  • Raise awareness in the general public via media campaigns or information and brochures for patients and relatives.