WHO begins review of Essential Medicines List; focus on child and maternal health
Today marks the start of the 18th Meeting of the WHO Expert Committee on the Selection and Use of Essential Medicines. At the weeklong meeting, held in Accra Ghana, the Committee will review 16 applications for the addition of a new medicine to the model list; 7 applications for the addition of a new formulation; and 9 applications for the deletion of a medicine from the list.
Access to appropriate medicines is vital to improving global public health and achieving targets set in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). More than eight million children under the age of five still die every year from causes such as pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria. The majority of these deaths occur in developing countries and can be prevented when the right medicines are available and are prescribed and used correctly.
The availability of medicines in developing countries for maternal and child health is compromised by poor supply and distribution systems, insufficient health facilities and staff, low investment in health and the high cost of medicines. Other challenges facing the development of medicines for children include ethical considerations and appropriate clinical trials.
Progress is being made. The GAVI Alliance recently helped to introduce a vaccine against pneumonia, specially-tailored to meet the needs of children, in Kenya and is expected to save hundreds of thousands of lives in coming years.
More than 200 medicines are now in testing to meet the needs of children. In addition to creating medicines specifically to meet the needs of children, biopharmaceutical companies are testing many existing medicines to determine safe and effective dosage levels for children.
To mark the WHO Expert Committees’ biennial review of the Essential Medicines List, the WHO released their first ever list of priority medicines for maternal and child health. The drugs on the priority medicines list for mothers and children are all included in the current version of the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines.
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