WHO Committee Updating Model Essential Medicines List

The EML is intended as a model to help countries develop their own lists to prioritize medicines useful in meeting health needs.

An expert committee working for the World Health Organization is meeting this week to update the Model Essential Medicines List, the agency announced April 8. The list is meant to assist countries in developing their own national lists and prioritizing medicines to meet their health needs. "It also plays an important advocacy role: inclusion in the EML highlights the potential impact of products; removal from the list can send a clear signal that a product is no longer appropriate," according to the agency.

"The EML is one of WHO's most important projects from the past 35 years," said Dr. Manica Balasegaram, executive director of Medécins Sans Frontiers' Access Campaign. "We use it as a tool to flag drugs for priority use. I would like to see it become an even stronger tool to serve developing countries, a tool for innovation and change."

WHO created the first Essential Drugs List in 1977 with 220 drugs listed. Since then the EML Expert Committee has met every two years to update the Model List. Any entity may propose an addition -- individuals, governments, pharmaceutical companies, or medical associations. They must provide evidence of the proposed drug's safety, efficacy, and cost-effectiveness and must show the medicine is essential to meeting priority health care needs and is available in adequate amounts.

The committee is reviewing the 17th Model Essential Medicines List, with an updated list expected to be available in the third quarter of 2013.

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