Improving Availability of and Access to Opioids in Colombia: Description and Preliminary Results of an Action Plan for the Country


Leon MX, De Lima L, Florez S et al. Improving availability of and access to opioids in Colombia: description and preliminary results of an action plan for the country. J Pain Symptom Manage 2009;38:758-766.


Latin America consumes less than 2.7% of the morphine in the world, as reported by the governments to the International Narcotics Control Board. Methods to improve access to opioids for the treatment of pain have been developed by the Pain & Policy Studies Group (PPSG), a World Health Organization Collaborating Center at the University of Wisconsin. This article describes the preparation and implementation of an action plan in Colombia as a part of an international fellowship program on opioid policy developed by the PPSG and funded by the Open Society Institute. The action plan for Colombia included three steps: 1) a survey of regulators and health care providers to identify the current situation and their perceptions of opioid availability in the regions of the country; 2) a workshop with representatives of the Ministry of Health, the national and state competent authorities, pain and palliative care physicians, and international leaders; and 3) implementation workshops at the local level throughout the country. For the survey, response rates of 47% and 96% were registered among physicians and competent authorities, respectively. The survey identified significant regional differences in perceived opioid availability between physicians and regulators. Focus group discussions during the workshop identified several reasons leading to limited availability of opioids in the country, including deficiencies in the procurement process, insufficient human resources, excessive bureaucratic tasks, insufficient number of pharmacies authorized to dispense controlled medications in the country, lack of training in the health care professions, and overly restrictive laws and regulations governing opioid availability. The third step of the action plan has not been implemented. Additional and continuous monitoring needs to be implemented to measure the progress of this project.