WHO introduces new drugs for management of chronic diseases

SWITZERLAND – Newly updated guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO) one essential medicines list has been published providing further recommendations for diabetes and cancer treatment drugs.

The WHO Essential Medicines List provides key guidance documents that assist countries in prioritizing critical health products that should be widely available and affordable throughout health systems.

The updated Essential Medicines Lists include 20 new medicines for adults and 17 medicines for children, and new uses for 28 previously listed medicines.

The Expert Committee’s recommendations increase the number of essential medicines to address critical public health needs to 479 on the Model List of Essential Medicines (EML) and 350 on the Essential Medicines List for Children (EMLc).

While these numbers may seem high, they are only a small proportion of the total number of medicines available on the market.

Four new medicines for cancer treatment were added to the Model Lists: Enzalutamide, as an alternative to abiraterone, for prostate cancer; Everolimus, for subependymal giant cell astrocytoma (SEGA), a type of brain tumor in children; Ibrutinib, a targeted medicine for chronic lymphocytic leukemia; and Rasburicase, for tumor lysis syndrome, a severe complication of some cancer treatments.

WHO has also broadened access to diabetes treatment options by adding long-acting insulin analogs, including insulin degludec, detemir, and glargine, as well as biosimilars to human insulin.

The list also includes Sodium-Glucose Co-transporter-2 (SGLT2) inhibitors empagliflozin, canagliflozin, and dapagliflozin for treating type 2 diabetes in adults. SGLT2 inhibitors reduce blood sugar by causing the kidneys to excrete sugar through the urine.

The inclusion of biosimilar insulin analogs on the list means they may be eligible for the WHO’s prequalification program.

Speaking in this regard, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said, “Diabetes is on the rise globally, and rising faster in low- and middle-income countries,” adding that, “Too many people who need insulin encounter financial hardship in accessing it or go without it and lose their lives. Including insulin analogues in the Essential Medicines List, coupled with efforts to ensure affordable access to all insulin products and expand use of biosimilars, is a vital step towards ensuring everyone who needs this life-saving product can access it.”

The listings are intended to address global health priorities by helping healthcare providers to identify medicines that provide the most significant benefits for these health conditions.

However, the UN body noted that high prices for new, patented medicines and older medications, such as insulin, keep some essential medicines out of reach for many patients.

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