An introduction to ATOME
The ATOME project aims to improve access to opioids across Europe. A consortium of academic institutions and public health organizations is working to help governments, particularly in Eastern Europe, identify and remove barriers that prevent people from accessing medicines that could improve end of life care, alleviate debilitating pain and treat heroin dependence.
Why this project?
About 1.7 million people in Europe die from cancer each year, many experiencing severe pain, even though effective pain medications exist. Launched in December 2009 in Aachen, Germany, and co-led by the University of Aachen, Lancaster University (UK), and the World Health Organization (WHO), the Access to Opioid Medication in Europe (ATOME) project will address the legal, administrative and organisational barriers that impede access to pain management for treatment of cancer and other conditions in many European countries.
We have made great progress in pain management in the last decade, and nobody ought to suffer from pain, but still patients are dying in terrible pain, without a chance to get morphine. This project aims to work closely with policy makers and doctors in 12 countries to remove legal barriers to access to morphine and other opioids.
Professor Lukas Radbruch, Chair of Palliative Medicine of the University Hospital Bonn
There is great variability across European countries in terms of legal controls of morphine and other opioids. This means that in some countries it is very difficult for doctors to prescribe pain management medicines. In other cases, physicians may be unfamiliar with prescribing this special class of medicine. As well, misperceptions around opioids and dependence can limit access for both pain management and treatment of drug dependence.