Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic

Message from the INCB President on the COVID-19 pandemic

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, the global population has faced an unprecedented challenge and experienced devastating personal, social and economic losses. Our way of life has changed drastically, as we collectively apply measures to halt the spread of the virus and protect the health of our communities.

The pandemic has demonstrated the need for universal access to health care, including access to medicines containing controlled substances and uninterrupted services for the prevention of drug abuse and treatment of substance use disorders.

It remains essential for governments to ensure continued access to controlled medicines for all COVID-19 related medical needs and also for other ongoing medical needs, such as those related to pain relief and palliative care, mental health and neurological conditions, and the treatment of drug use disorders. INCB continues to call on all countries and territories to ensure the maintenance of sufficient buffer stocks of controlled substances to guarantee availability of those medicines throughout the pandemic.

The international drug control system has proven to be effective in ensuring the continued international trade in narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and precursor chemicals for industrial, medical and scientific purposes. Despite heightened demand for some controlled substances at the beginning of the pandemic, countries have been able to continue to import quantities of controlled substances to meet their estimated requirements. There is a strong need, however, for governments to improve the accuracy of their estimates and assessments of licit requirements for narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, to improve availability of and access to medicines containing controlled substances and to ensure that no patient suffers unnecessarily. INCB is building the capacity of competent national authorities in this regard through INCB Learning, in cooperation with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

During the pandemic, INCB convened an expert group meeting to ensure the timely supply of and access to controlled substances during emergency situations. We are highlighting the need for Governments to exercise flexibility in implementing simplified control measures for the international trade in those substances, so as to facilitate the provision of humanitarian assistance. On the occasion of World Humanitarian Day, 19 August 2021, INCB launched its factsheet on " Lessons from countries and humanitarian aid organizations in facilitating the Timely Supply of Controlled Substances during Emergency Situations". This document provides recommendations to and calls on governments to improve access to medicines containing controlled substances in emergencies, including pandemics and climate-related disasters. In September 2021, recognizing that access to controlled medicines in emergency situations remains constrained, INCB, UNODC and WHO issued a joint statement calling for collaboration towards effective solutions.

The pandemic has also affected the dynamics of illicit drug markets. Through INCB's Global Rapid Interdiction of Dangerous Substances (GRIDS Programme), we are supporting governments in preventing the exploitation of e-commerce, social media and the internet, including the dark web, for the illicit marketing of dangerous substances. Key to this is the establishment of public-private partnerships.

Throughout the pandemic, INCB has continued to build the capacity of governments in drug control, and through online meetings and e-learning modules we have been able to reach an even greater number of governments and officials.

I encourage competent national authorities to remain in close contact with the Board and its secretariat, and to inform INCB of any difficulties encountered in the licit international trade of controlled substances or when attempts to divert those substances are identified. INCB remains committed to supporting governments in the functioning of the international drug control system and implementation of the provisions of the drug control conventions, throughout the pandemic and beyond. This will contribute to the achievement of the sustainable development goals and above all - save lives.

Jagjit Pavadia

COVID-19 is the infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus. This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. The World Health Organization (WHO) determined that the outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19) was a pandemic on 11 March 2020.

The latest developments related to this global health emergency are available on a dedicated UN website, through UN News and from WHO.

Monitoring COVID-19 through the WHO Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Situation Dashboard.

Press Releases / WEB STORIES

INCB support to Governments during the COVID-19 pandemic

In view of the COVID-19 pandemic, INCB is continuing to ensure the functioning of the international system for trade in controlled substances, pursuant to the three international drug control conventions.

Measures are in place to ensure that the Board and its Vienna-based secretariat can - regardless of any local restrictions in place to contain the pandemic - continue to assist competent national authorities in the functioning of the system of international trade in controlled substances.

Availability of medicines containing internationally controlled substances

The International Narcotics Control Board is calling on governments to ensure that the international supply chains of controlled substances, such as pain relief medicines and medicines for neurological and mental health disorders, including for the treatment of drug use disorders, are not disrupted by measures put in place to counter the COVID-19 pandemic and contain further transmission of the virus.

The Board also calls on the competent national authorities of all countries and territories to ensure the maintenance of sufficient buffer stocks of controlled substances to guarantee availability of those medicines throughout the duration of the pandemic. Suppliers and distributers play a crucial role in ensuring that internationally controlled substances urgently needed for medical treatment remain available within and across national borders.

INCB calls on governments to be alert regarding the sale of falsified or substandard medicines within their territories, including through the internet, and to inform the public to be vigilant.

INCB systems to facilitate licit international trade in controlled substances, while preventing their diversion to illicit channels, continue to operate.

Contingency measures during the COVID-19 pandemic have been put in place within the International Import and Export Authorization System (I2ES), available to all registered users - connect to I2ES.

Information for competent national authorities in registering to use I2ES can be found at connect to I2ES.

Secure Portal for Governments

In addition to information provided above, any guidance issued by the Board specifically for competent national authorities is being placed on the secure portal for Governments, available here.

Contact the INCB Secretariat

The INCB secretariat is available to assist competent national authorities and can be contacted at:

©1995-2023 International Narcotics Control Board