Opioids can improve the lives of patients with advanced cancer. But 80 percent of the world’s population does not have access to these crucial pain medications. This is a problem that Dr. Jim Cleary, professor of Medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, and his colleagues have been working to remedy.

Cleary, who serves as director of the UW Carbone Cancer Center’s Pain and Policy Studies Group, leads an international effort to monitor and improve cancer patients’ access to these medications.

Cleary recently received a $25,000 Ride Scholar Award in support of this work. The award is funded by proceeds from The Ride, a bicycling event that raises money for cancer research at the University of Wisconsin.

This funding will support Cleary’s efforts to establish and monitor trends in opioid use and analyze data to set appropriate opioid use targets for countries around the world.

Opioids such as morphine are inexpensive to produce and readily available as standard care in developed nations. But they are often difficult to obtain legally in other countries even though the World Health Organization considers them essential medicines to manage pain for patients with cancer.

“Our goal is to ensure access to those who need opioids for medical purposes while reducing the risk of misuse and diversion,” Cleary says.