Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Improving access to pain relief

An EU initiative was launched to improve access to opioids, an important class of painkillers, in 12 European countries.
Improving access to pain relief
Opium-derived medicines are highly valued in the health industry for their powerful pain relief properties, but are also strictly regulated to prevent abuse. Because of this, opioids are not readily available in many European countries, leading to under-treatment of pain across the EU.

The EU-funded ATOME (Access to opioid medication in Europe) project worked to remedy this situation through research and policy action. The ultimate goal was to improve access to opioid medicines for all patients requiring pain treatment.

Twelve countries were chosen as the focus of the project: Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Turkey. The project began by establishing partnerships with teams of experts in each country, including government officials, legal experts, public health care specialists and patients.

The major output of ATOME was revised World Health Organization (WHO) policy guidelines for availability and accessibility of controlled substances. From this, the project analysed the legal and policy situations in each country with regards to controlled substances.

Specifically, ATOME investigated challenges around access to opioids – legal and regulatory barriers, policy barriers and the perceptions of barriers in different groups. This information was then used to form a framework for the rest of the ATOME project, which included national conferences, lectures and workshops.

Lastly, ATOME produced reports on policy, legislation and perceived barriers for each of the 12 countries involved in the project. Delivered to relevant ministries, national organisations and health care professionals, these reports have the potential to improve opioid availability in the 12 target countries.

Related information


Pain relief, opioids, painkillers, medication, health care, controlled substances
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