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WHO Updates Lists of Essential Medicines, Diagnostics

Posted 09 July 2019 | By Ana Mulero 

WHO Updates Lists of Essential Medicines, Diagnostics

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday released the latest lists of essential medicines and essential in vitro diagnostic (IVD) tests, which can help countries prioritize critical health products.
The updated essential medicines list (EML) adds 51 new medicines, bringing the total to 460 medicines. The updated essential diagnostics list (EDL) adds 115 tests to the 113 tests in the first EDL version, published last May.
The focus of the EML is medicines considered to be cost-effective options to meet the most pressing public health needs, whereas the EDL seeks to drive IVD supply for use in community settings and clinical laboratories to support accurate diagnoses.
Both lists include new products for the treatment or detection of cancers. The EML now lists five new cancer therapies for the treatment of melanoma, lung, blood and prostate cancers, while the new EDL catalogs 12 tests to detect solid tumors like breast and liver cancer, among others. A new section on anatomical pathology testing in the EDL also aims to support appropriate cancer diagnoses.
“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,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said about the EML. WHO cites late diagnosis as a key factor in 70% of cancer deaths in low- to middle-income countries.
The breakdown of the 51 new medicine includes 28 medicines for adults and 23 medicines for children. Other updates include new antibiotics, such as three for the treatment of multi-drug resistant infections, oral anticoagulants for stroke prevention, biologics and their biosimilars for chronic inflammatory conditions, as well as heat-stable carbetocin for the prevention of postpartum hemorrhage. The EML also contains new uses for 26 medicines included in previous versions of the list.
The EML does not include, however, submitted medicines for multiple sclerosis nor a submitted medicine for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, known as methylphenidate, because the committee “found uncertainties in the estimates of benefit.”
The EDL extends the scope of the first version to cover 69 additional IVDs to detect, diagnose and monitor diseases, including dengue and Zika. It also covers 46 general tests for use in routine patient care as well as for the detection and diagnosis of conditions such as sickle cell.
Another new section in the EDL includes seven test categories intended for the screening of blood donations, coinciding with a WHO campaign to improve the safety of blood transfusions.

Separately, the agency also issued a call for applications to begin working on the third version of the EDL. 

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