WHO updates list for global guidance on medicines, diagnostics tests

Geneva: World Health Organisation, the apex global health body, on Tuesday updated the global guidance on medicines and diagnostic tests to address health challenges, prioritize highly effective therapeutics, and improve affordable access.


Published today, the two lists focus on cancer and other global health challenges, with an emphasis on effective solutions, smart prioritization, and optimal access for patients.


“Around the world, more than 150 countries use WHO’s Essential Medicines List to guide decisions about which medicines represent the best value for money, based on evidence and health impact,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.


He called for the access of essential medicines to every people on the earth.


“The inclusion in this list of some of the newest and most advanced cancer drugs is a strong statement that everyone deserves access to these life-saving medicines, not just those who can afford them,” he said during the release of the list here.


The list mentions about cancer treatments, saying that while several new cancer treatments have been marketed in recent years, only a few deliver sufficient therapeutic benefits to be considered essential.


“The five cancer therapies WHO added to the new Medicines List are regarded as the best in terms of survival rates to treat melanoma, lung, blood and prostate cancers,” according to the list.


Two recently developed immunotherapies (nivolumab and pembrolizumab) have delivered up to 50% survival rates for advanced melanoma, a cancer that until recently was incurable.


Similarly, the list also mentions about the essential medicines committee strengthened advice on antibiotic use by updating the AWARE categories, which indicate which antibiotics to use for the most common and serious infections to achieve better treatment outcomes and reduce the risk of antimicrobial resistance.


The committee recommended that three new antibiotics for the treatment of multi-drug resistant infections be added as essential.


Other updates to the medicines list include new oral anticoagulants to prevent stroke as an alternative to warfarin for atrial fibrillation and treatment of deep vein thrombosis.


These are particularly advantageous for low-income countries as, unlike warfarin, they do not require regular monitoring;


“Biologics and their respective biosimilars for chronic inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel diseases,” the list said.


The list mentions about heat-stable carbetocin for the prevention of postpartum haemorrhage.


“This new formulation has similar effects to oxytocin, the current standard therapy, but offers advantages for tropical countries as it does not require refrigeration,” it said.


Not all submissions to the EML Committee are included in the list.


“For example, medicines for multiple sclerosis submitted for inclusion were not listed. The Committee noted that some relevant therapeutic options currently marketed in many countries were not included in the submissions; it will welcome a revised application with all relevant available options. The EML Committee also did not recommend including methylphenidate, a medicine for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), as the committee found uncertainties in the estimates of benefit,” the list said.

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