Abstract

The increasing incidence of oncological diseases creates a corresponding need for effective cancer pain management (CPM). The lack of access to and availability of opioid analgesics in most countries leads to avoidable suffering. This systematic review aims to identify barriers to accessing opioids, as described in literature that reflects the perspective of health-care workers. A systematic literature search was performed in May 2018 and updated in December 2022, using search terms related to “cancer pain,” “opioid analgesics,” “access,” and “health-care personnel.” Medline, Embase, and PsycInfo were searched. Forty-two studies met the inclusion criteria. Principal barriers that have hindered licit access to medical opioids include regulatory, systemic, educational, patient-related, and societal. These barriers are rooted in a lack of adequate education about the importance and significance of appropriate CPM. Barriers were often mutually reinforcing. A interdisciplinary approach is required to overcome them. This research contributes to the important global health issue of unduly limited access to opioid analgesics. It provides interdisciplinary solutions in terms of guidelines to ensure that governments respect, protect, and fulfill the right to the highest attainable standard of health, which includes the relief of severe pain.

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