WHO Updates List of Essential Medicines

The World Health Organization (WHO) has updated the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines for 2019.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has updated the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines for 2019, adding new agents for cancer therapy, multidrug resistant infections, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel diseases, and postpartum hemorrhage.

The list consists of medicine considered to be the most important to guide decisions on public health; it includes 460 products, with 28 new drugs for adults and 23 new drugs for children, as well as additional indications for 26 existing drugs. 

The WHO has added 5 cancer therapies to the new Medicines List which are regarded as the best in terms of survival rates to treat melanoma, lung, blood and prostate cancers. The Expert Committee has recommended the following: nivolumab for front-line monotherapy in patients with unresectable and metastatic melanoma; bortezomib, lenalidomide, thalidomide and melphalan for newly-diagnosed multiple myeloma in both non-transplant and transplant eligible/available settings; erlotinib for front-line treatment of EGFR mutation positive advanced non-small cell lung cancer; abiraterone for metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer; and arsenic (oral and IV formulations) for acute promyelocytic leukemia.

In addition, the Expert Committee recommended the addition of 3 antibiotics classified under AWaRe (Access, Watch, and Reserve) as Reserve antibiotics: ceftazidime + avibactam, meropenem + vaborbactam, and plazomicin. Reserve group antibiotics are considered the “last resort” options that are reserved only for multidrug resistant infections.

Other updates to the WHO Essential Medicines List include:

  • Dabigatran for prevention of stroke and systemic embolism in patients with nonvalvular atrial fibrillation, and for treatment of venous thromboembolism
  • Adalimumab for chronic inflammatory autoimmune disorders (eg, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel diseases)
  • Alteplase for use in acute ischemic stroke
  • Heat-stable carbetocin for prevention of postpartum hemorrhage

The WHO Essential Medicines List is revised every 2 years by the Expert Committee on the Selection and Use of Essential Medicines.

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For more information visit WHO.int.