Pain: A Neglected Problem in the Low-Resource Setting

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Approximately 80% of the world’s population lives in countries with little or no access to pain management. These countries also have 74% of the world’s deaths from cancer and human immunodeficiency virus. Appropriate use of oral opioids can control 80%–90% of cancer pain. However, only 6.7% of the world’s medical opioids are available in these low-resource countries. With the Lancet Commission on Global Surgery calling for a significant expansion of surgical services, postoperative pain management will need to be an increasing focus of our attention. There are multiple barriers to providing effective pain management. These include the type and funding of the health care system, the size and educational level of the workforce, the ease of access to effective medications, and the expectations and knowledge base of the community. Some barriers can be addressed by education at the undergraduate level, postgraduate level, and community level. Others will require continued advocacy at government level. Only when we tackle these problems will the considerable neglect of access to effective pain treatment in low- and middle-income countries be lessened.

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