Access to essential medicines

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Some substances controlled under the international drug control treaties are routinely used in healthcare in diverse fields of medicine, such as anaesthesia, drug dependence, maternal health, mental health, neurology, pain management and palliative care. The World Health Organization has included 12 medicines that contain internationally controlled substances in its Model List of Essential Medicines. These represent the ‘minimum medicine needs for a basic healthcare system’ and ‘the most efficacious, safe and cost-effective medicines’. A number of countries also apply similar national controls to other essential medicines outside of those proscribed by international law – such as ketamine. Although ensuring the adequate availability of controlled substances for medical and scientific purposes is one of the fundamental aims of the UN drug conventions, the UN system and UN member states have so far failed at fulfilling this objective. For more information, check the IDPC Drug policy Guide.


Please note these maps are produced on the basis of the non-literal real-time accounts of UN debates available at the CND Blog. While all care has been taken to ensure that the information presented here reflects the spirit of official statements, inaccuracies are possible. If you wish to suggest an amendment, please write to contact[@]idpc.net.