(Mexico City) – Mexico’s introduction on June 15, 2015, of a new system for prescribing and dispensing strong prescription pain medicines will significantly improve health care for people with advanced illnesses, Human Rights Watch said today.

“This is very good news for patients and their families,” said Diederik Lohman, associate health director at Human Rights Watch. “It will significantly improve access to essential medicines that have been unavailable to tens of thousands of people who have been suffering unnecessarily.”

Estimates by the World Health Organization and the Worldwide Hospice and Palliative Care Alliance suggest that more than half of the 600,000 people who die every year in Mexico require palliative care, frequently including treatment of significant pain.

The new system allows physicians to download from a secure website special prescriptions with bar codes required for prescribing opioid pain killers. It also introduces electronic record keeping for pharmacies.

Until now, physicians had to travel in person to state capitals to obtain bar code stickers, a highly time-consuming requirement that discouraged many physicians from near me these medicines. Pharmacies had to record all transactions involving these medicines in multiple log books, a significant bureaucratic burden.

Opioid analgesics such as morphine are essential for the treatment of moderate to severe pain due to cancer, among other conditions. Because of the potential for diversion and misuse, international law requires countries to regulate prescription and distribution of these medicines.