Opioid shortage status

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]


Shortage Status

Global shortage of poppy-based medicines

Morphine and other poppy-based medicines have been identified by the World Health Organisation as essential in the treatment of severe pain. However, only six countries use 77% of the world's morphine supplies, leaving many emerging countries lacking in pain relief medication.[1]. The current system of supply of raw poppy materials to make poppy-based medicines is regulated by the International Narcotics Control Board under the provision of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. The amount of raw poppy materials that each country can demand annually based on these provisions must correspond to an estimate of the country's needs taken from the national consumption within the preceding two years. In many countries, underprescription of morphine is rampant because of the high prices and the lack of training in the prescription of poppy-based drugs. The World Health Organisation is now working with different countries' national administrations to train healthworkers and to develop national regulations regarding drug prescription in order to facilitate a greater prescription of poppy-based medicines.[2]

Another idea to increase morphine availability is proposed by the Senlis Council, who suggest, through their proposal for Afghan Morphine, that Afghanistan could provide cheap pain relief solutions to emerging countries as part of a second-tier system of supply that would complement the current INCB regulated system by maintaining the balance and closed system that it establishes while providing finished product morphine to those suffering from severe pain and unable to access poppy-based drugs under the current system.


  1. http://www.senliscouncil.net/modules/publications/008_publication
  2. The World Health Organisation "Assuring Availability of Opioid Analgesics" [www.euro.who.int/document/e76503.pdf]

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