Current estimates suggest that upward of 80% of the world's population lacks access to basic pain relief. Paradoxically, those 80% are mostly in poorer countries, and their need for pain relief is heightened by a relative absence of curative care such as surgery, or treatment for both communicable and non-communicable diseases causing pain (e.g., HIV/AIDS, cancer). There are many reasons for this disturbing health inequity (e.g., difficulties in procurement, lack of prescribing knowledge among health providers), but the fundamental, often overlooked reason is the cumbersome, restrictive drug laws and policies that exist at international, national, and local levels. We call the legal barriers “fundamental” because where laws forbid access to pain relief, that prohibition trumps all other reasons for the inequity.
The source is a paper by Nickerson and Attaran, "The Inadequate Treatment of Pain: Collateral Damage from the War on Drugs" (Plos Medicine, 2012).