WHO expands list of essential medicines

WHO expands list of essential medicines

WHO expands list of essential medicines

The World Health Organisation has added 30 new medicines for adults and 25 for children to the list of essential medicines, bringing the total number of such drugs to 433.

Of the 30 new medicines for adults and 25 for kids, 10 and 12 respectively are antibiotics. It also introduced categorisation of antibiotics to reduce the growing health threat of antibiotic resistance.

The list is used by many countries to increase access to medicines and guide decisions about which products they ensure are available for their populations. India has its own national list of essential medicine (NLEM), which includes 376 drugs.

The biggest revision, in the WHO essential medicine list’s 40 year history, happened in the antibiotics section following the global recognition of drug resistance as the emerging public health threat. “The rise in antibiotic resistance stems from how we are using and misusing these medicines,” said Suzanne Hill, director of essential medicines and health products at the WHO.

“The new list should help the health system planners to ensure that people who need antibiotics have access to them, and they get the right one so that the problem of resistance doesn’t get worse.”

The anti-microbial medicines have been grouped into three categories — access, watch and reserve — with recommendations on when each category should be used. Initially, the new categories apply only to antibiotics used to treat 21 of the most common general infections. If shown to be useful, it could be broadened in future versions of the essential medicine list to apply to drugs to treat other infections.

“The model list of essential medicines has a sharp focus on preserving anti-microbials. This list serves as a guide for the medicine supply system and is responsible for promoting health equity,” said Sumanth Gandra from the Washington-based Centre for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy, who was part of the expert team that revised the list.

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