Dr Saskia Jünger, Department of Palliative Medicine, University Hospital of Bonn (Germany) and member of the ATOME Project Management Team; Barbara Pitsillides, coordinator home care service PASYKAF and key contact of the Cyprus country team; Ioannis Kkolos, Pharmaceutical Services, Ministry of Health, Cyprus and leader of the Cyprus country team; Dr Willem Scholten, Access To Controlled Medicines, World Health Organization and Scientific Coordinator of ATOME.
Early birds were starting the third of 12 ATOME national conferences on 30 May at 8.30 in the morning. More than 75 participants – nurses, policy makers, NGOs, medical directors, pharmacists, lecturers and researchers – came to Nicosia to work on the national strategic action plan for improving access to opioids in Cyprus.
Equity and sustainability
“Funding for palliative care should not be about charity but about solidarity – we will need to strive for a society where every patient can get the care he or she needs”, says Ioannis Kkolos, Head of the Pharmaceutical Services at the Cypriot Ministry of Health.
The available hospice and palliative care services in Cyprus to date mainly rely on funding by charity and do not get financial support from the government. Cyprus is the smallest of the 12 ATOME target countries with a chequered history and fewer than 1,000,000 inhabitants scattered all over the island, implying particular challenges to health care provision.
A strong plea for better access to opioids
“We do have good medicines in Cyprus – so why is it necessary that people suffer? Why is it still happening that people become traumatised from the fear of pain?” says Barbara Pitsillides, coordinator of home care service PASYKAF – The Cyprus Association of Cancer Patients and Friends. She makes a strong plea for using the momentum in Cyprus and making a difference in opioid availability. Although legal and regulatory barriers in Cyprus appear to be low compared to other developed countries, a study by the World Health Organization showed that Cyprus has only 12% of the average opioid consumption of the top-20 countries in the Human Development Index used in 2006. This is higher than in most eastern and south-eastern European countries, but much below western and northern Europe ¹. Barbara Pitsillides invites the conference delegates to work together on a strategic approach to improving access to opioids on different levels and emphasises the need for a national treatment guideline for opioid use.
In the afternoon, the conference delegates worked on recommendations for opioid use in pain management, drug dependence therapy, and education and training for relevant institutions. Highly concentrated work and lively discussions during these working groups built on the strategic action plan developed during the ATOME six-country workshop in Bucharest in September 2011, and on the recent achievements in Cyprus in the area of palliative care and harm reduction. It was impressive to see the delegates’ commitment as they used the working groups to elaborate specific and achievable goals with concrete assignments for following up the next steps.
1. Seya MJ, Gelders SFAM, Achara UA, Milani B, Scholten WK. A First Comparison between the Consumption of and the Need for Opioid Analgesics at Country, Regional and Global Level. J Pain and Palliative Care Pharmacotherapy, 2011; 25: 6-18. Available at: http://www.who.int/entity/medicines/areas/quality_safety/ACNewsletter7WithAnnex.pdf (please see the Annex).