Around 80% of the opioid supply on a global level is consumed in the US which makes up approximately 5% of the world population, according to the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians. With nearly 300 million prescriptions for opioid pain relievers written in the US in 2015 alone, equaling a $24 billion market, the rampant use of prescription opiates in the nation points to a more sizeable gap between highly developed countries and the rest of the world. Vikesh Singh, associate professor of medicine at John Hopkins University stated that consumption of the world's opioid supply increases to 95% if Western Europe and Canada are included, which means that all the other countries across the globe have access to only about 5% of the world's opioids.
In most of the world's countries, the use of prescription opioid painkillers is generally limited to the management of excruciating pain due to severe trauma, terminal cancer, extensive burns, childbirth, and surgery, while every adult in the US can have access to a bottle of these pills "and then some", according to US Surgeon General Vivek Murty, who also declared that the vast majority of misused prescription opiate painkillers actually come from prescriptions written legally by clinicians for the management of pain.
The US is gripped by an unprecedented opioid overdose, use and abuse epidemic, the CDC warns, and several studies estimate that about 80% of Americans struggling with an opioid use disorder do not get the medication-assisted treatment they need. Globally, the gap between the need for treatment and access to it is unfortunately even greater. The WHO estimates that 90% of people with an opioid use disorder in the world do not have access to the specialized treatment they need.
According to the same organization, 15 million people suffer from such disorders worldwide and about 69,000 die each year from an opioid-related overdose, while CDC data indicate that 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. Given that a new Director General will assume leadership at the WHO later in 2017, questions regarding governance and resource allocation are in fact even more pressing this year, as most donor governments across the globe are questioning the actual value of development assistance in health and other key areas.
Over the past several years, the Clinton Foundation and Chelsea Clinton, Vice Chair of the Foundation have worked tirelessly in partnership with scientists at John Hopkins University to study ways of tackling effectively this rampant public health crisis that continues to claim lives and destroy families across the nation. Chelsea Clinton claims that we can effectively save thousands of human lives by dispelling the stigma associated with opioid dependence and improving access to the opioid overdose reversal medicine naloxone (Narcan).
She stated that the Clinton Foundation is diligently working with partners to make this life-saving medicine widely available to first responders, emergency medical services personnel, police officers and educators as well as widely affordable, at times even free for those who need it to reverse the effects of an opioid-related overdose. Chelsea Clinton also said that saving lives is an obligation and working toward zero opioid overdose deaths in 2017 is the top priority.