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J Pain Symptom Manage. 2017 Mar;53(3):518-532. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2016.10.362. Epub 2016 Dec 30.

Civil Society-Driven Drug Policy Reform for Health and Human Welfare-India.

Author information

1
Trivandrum Institute of Palliative Sciences, World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Training and Policy on Access to Pain Relief, Arumana Hospital, Thiruvananthapuram, India. Electronic address: aanandini@gmail.com.
2
Lawyer's Collective, Bhogal-Jangpura, New Delhi, India.
3
Department of Palliative Medicine, University Hospital RWTH Aachen, Aachen, Germany.
4
Health and Human Rights Division, Human Rights Watch, Maplewood, New Jersey, USA.
5
Pain and Policy Studies Group, University of Wisconsin, World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Pain Policy in Palliative Care, Madison, Wisconsin, USA.
6
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York, USA.
7
Trivandrum Institute of Palliative Sciences, World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Training and Policy on Access to Pain Relief, Arumana Hospital, Thiruvananthapuram, India.

Abstract

The lack of adequate access to opioids in India as analgesics and for agonist therapies, forces millions to live with severe unalleviated pain, or languish with suffering associated with drug dependence. Although India is a major opium exporter, the excessively prohibitive 1985 narcotics law formulated to control harmful use of drugs, impeded the availability and access to opioids for medical and scientific purposes. Amendment of this law in 2014 established a new national regulatory framework for improved access to essential opioid analgesics. This article reflects on key elements and processes that led to this landmark achievement. Unlike quick timelines associated with effecting policy reforms for law enforcement, realizing the 2014 drug policy change primarily to mitigate human suffering, was a 22-year-long process. The most exacting challenges included recognizing the multilayered complexities of the prior policy framework and understanding their adverse impact on field practices to chart an appropriate and viable path for reform. The evolution of an informal civil society movement involving health care professionals, lawyers, media, policy analysts, government officials, and the public was pivotal in addressing these challenges and garnering momentum for reform. The success of the effort for improving access to opioid medications was underpinned by a three-pronged strategy of 1) persuading the executive arm of the government to take interim enabling measures; 2) leveraging judicial intervention through public interest litigation; and 3) crafting a viable policy document for legislative approval and implementation. We hope our findings are useful for realizing drug policy reforms, given the current transformed global policy mandates emphasizing humanitarian, healthcare, and quality-of-life considerations.

KEYWORDS:

India; drug policy; law; opioid; regulation

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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