January 29

Busy Season for Advocacy Action

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A Full Slate: IAHPC poster presentation, statements & side events

‘Best Care for the Dying’?

At the annual symposium of the International Collaborative for Best Care for the Dying Person held in Rotterdam in November, I presented a poster collectively conceived and designed by myself, John Rosenberg, president of Public Health Palliative Care International, and Libby Sallnow, chair of the Lancet Commission on the Value of Death. As Libby and John had other commitments, I took the train from the Brussels meeting on controlled medicines availability to take advantage of the opportunity to network with friends and colleagues doing great work in the international palliative care community. Although the poster didn’t win a prize, it expressed values of solidarity and community that many of us articulated throughout the meeting. I will undoubtedly mine the very interesting presentations and lectures in the work ahead! 

CND66 Thematic & Reconvened Sessions

The next trip was to Vienna in December, for thematic and reconvened sessions of the 66th Commission on Narcotic Drugs. I made two interventions on the floor for IAHPC. 

The first was in response to a comment by the delegate for the USA who asked, “How can we get rid of addiction?” I said that this was not possible, and spoke to the need for prevention of substance use disorder and treatment services as key anchors for the rational use of controlled medicines in health systems. 

 In the second, I offered IAHPC’s convening and facilitation assistance to member states wishing to take the Pledge4Action on the 11 challenges of the 2019 Ministerial Declaration proposed by the incoming Chair, Ambassador Philibert Johnson from Ghana. Many more delegations joined the interactive discussion on improving availability of internationally controlled essential medicines for palliative care and other practices than usual, signaling a greater degree of confidence with the topic. 

You can watch the thematic discussions on controlled medicines, chaired by the Colombian Ambassador, here. The video begins at the 34-minute mark with excellent technical presentations from UNODC staff, followed by member state questions and comments. My intervention is at 52.2 minutes. 

Sitting at the far right is Irena Laska of Mary Potter Hospice, Albania. Photo by Sarah Pirker; used with permission.

Advocacy opportunity! Watch the recording to see if your national delegation spoke up, then follow up with them to help ensure their informed participation in the debates at CND67! 

Side Event on Improving Availability

Also at CND, IAHPC partnered with the Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs and Pallium India to sponsor a hybrid side event on improving availability of opioids for pain relief. The side event was co-hosted by the missions of El Salvador, Switzerland, Belgium, and Ghana. The panel chaired by HE Ambassador Julia Villatoro featured speakers from the Belgian Health Ministry, World Health Organization, UN Office of Drugs and Crime, and the Drug Regulatory Agency of El Salvador. Dr. M.R. Rajagopal launched the 2023 Morphine Manifesto online, I presented the IAHPC Opioid Price Watch Project, and one of our Leadership Development Program (LEAD) grantees, Irena Laska, described how opioids for patients are safely prescribed in Albania. Watch the video on our YouTube channel!

Advocacy opportunity! We are planning a side event on the Pledge4Action to support improved availability for the regular session of CND67 in March. Please contact me if you would like to apply to join the IAHPC delegation. 

IAHPC Goes to Caracas

The International Narcotics Control Board invited Dr. Tania Pastrana, IAHPC’s Research and Academic Advisor, to present at an INCB Learning workshop in Caracas. Many national regulators in charge of ensuring adequate availability of pharmaceutical products containing what are anachronistically called “narcotic drugs” have little understanding of their rational medical use, and tend to focus more on control to prevent harmful nonmedical use. This focus restricts rational availability for medical purposes. Dr. Pastrana’s presentation gave them a new appreciation for the availability perspective, which aligns with 21st century medicine and normative frameworks. Read more about the meeting.

Advocacy Focal Points Prepare for 2024

 Seven IAHPC Advocacy Focal Points from Brazil, Burkina Faso, Canada, Colombia, India, the UK, and Zambia reviewed their considerable achievements in 2023 and discussed challenges they face making palliative care more available in their diverse contexts. We discussed plans for 2024, which focus on providing their national delegations to the March meeting of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs with the information and support needed to take the Pledge4Action to improve availability. You can review a video of the meeting, which details the 2024 plans. 

Advocacy opportunity! The Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs has issued a call for speakers for CND67’s meeting in March, so please consider applying by February 10 to make a short intervention (in person or video) on availability of controlled medicines in your country. I am available to help with your application.

New Advocacy Course Module

Module 6 of the IAHPC online Advocacy Course is now available. It will cover how to prepare a policy brief on topics relevant to our work. Once you have taken the module and drafted your policy brief, you can send it to me for review and editing. Digital certificates will be available. 

Module 6 will also help our Focal Points prepare their delegations for the 77th World Health Assembly at the end of May. IAHPC will field a delegation led by Board Member Dr. Natalie Greaves of the University of West Indies, Barbados, and Dr. Afsan Bhadelia of Purdue University, Indiana, USA. We have begun laying the groundwork for a side event on availability of controlled medicines with the G4Alliance and the International Association for the Study of Pain. Stay tuned for more on this in March and consider applying to join the (self-funded) delegation traveling to Geneva.

CICAD Annual Meeting

Last but not least, IAHPC presented a statement and contributed to discussions at the 74th annual session of CICAD (the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission) of the Organization of American States held in December. CICAD tends to avoid the topic of improving availability of controlled medicines, even though their own current Hemispheric Strategy identifies the need to improve availability as a strategic objective. If you live and work in the Americas, and would like to contribute to our CICAD presentations, please contact me


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