PHOTO FILE: OxyContin Prescription Pain Relief Bottles are sitting on a shelf at a local pharmacy in Provo, Utah, as of April 25, 2017. Good Medical / George Frey / File Photo

GENEVA (Good Medical) – In developing countries, cancer patients are being denied basic pain relief, often because of excessive fears about opioid abuse, said Thursday. 39; World Health Organization (WHO).

Two-thirds of the industrialized countries have oral morphine, an opioid widely used to reduce the severe pain, available in more than half of their pharmacies, compared to only 6% of poor countries, said Dr. Cherian Varghese, an expert on l & # 39; WHO.

The UN agency issued new guidelines for health authorities around the world to manage the pain that affects 55% of cancer patients on treatment and two-thirds of those with advanced or terminal cancer.

"No one, cancerous or non-cancerous, should live or die in pain in the twenty-first century," said Dr. Etienne Krug, director of the WHO Noncommunicable Diseases Department.

"In some parts of the world … these drugs circulate too freely and are used for drug addiction," he added. "There is a real and justified fear about it, but it should not be at the expense of those who live in pain or die in pain."

An epidemic of opioid overdose in the United States, caused in part by over-consumption of prescription drugs, claimed more than 49,000 lives last year, fueling the fear of addiction. elsewhere.

The WHO guidelines prescribe strict safeguards for the administration of addictive substances such as morphine, but specify that oral morphine is an "essential treatment of moderate to severe cancer pain".

There are 18.1 million new cases of cancer worldwide each year and one in six deaths – about 9.6 million – is due to the disease, the WHO said in a report released Feb. 4 to on the occasion of the World Cancer Day.

Reportage of Stephanie Nebehay; Edited by Kevin Liffey