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J Pain Palliat Care Pharmacother. 2011;25(3):246-51. doi: 10.3109/15360288.2011.599485.

Ensuring patient access to essential medicines while minimizing harmful use: a revised World Health Organization tool to improve national drug control policy.

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  • 1University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center, 1300 University Avenue, Madison, WI 53706, USA.


In 2011, the World Health Organization (WHO) published a series of 21 guidelines to assist governments in improving their national drug control laws, regulations, and administrative procedures to promote the availability of controlled medicines for pain relief and for a variety of acute and chronic diseases and conditions. These guidelines ultimately are designed to encourage the development of policies designed to fulfill a country's dual obligation concerning these medicines: to prevent their abuse, diversion and trafficking while ensuring access for medical and scientific purposes. This article summarizes each guideline and outlines the constituents who can actively participate in making controlled medicines available to the patients who need them. It is hoped that representatives of governments and medical institutions, as well as health care professionals, will commonly and effectively use the revised WHO guidelines as a policy change tool.

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