Geneva, 3rd March, 2016 (WAM) – Too many people suffer or die in pain because they do not have access to the right medication, despite longstanding global pledges to help those in need, United Nations health experts said Wednesday.

Blaming government inaction for the “unnecessary suffering”, the UN’s International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) said that around 5.5 billion people still have limited or no access to vital drugs.

New data indicates that despite two international conventions on the issue dating back to 1971, states have fallen behind on their commitments, with imbalances in the availability of medicines particularly clear in low-income countries.

Inadequate access to medical care is in contravention of article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but it’s still happening the world over, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) maintains.

At the launch of its annual report, the UN agency said that no less than 75 per cent of the global population – some five-and-a-half billion people – have to go without the pain relief treatment they need.

INCB identifies government inaction and “excessive” red tape as the main reasons why in recent decades “too many people still suffer or die in pain”.

This status quo has created an clear imbalance between rich and low-income countries, with just 17 per cent of the world’s population using 92 per cent of all morphine-based prescription drugs.

These countries are primarily the United States, Canada, western European nations, Australia and New Zealand.

In recent years this has led to an increase in prescription drug abuse and related overdose deaths in richer nations, the UN agency says.

INCB also said its findings are particularly worrying for poorer countries since data suggests that they’re experiencing an increase in conditions such as cancer that require pain-killing drugs.