The World Health Organization has added new costly treatments for hepatitis C, cancer and multi-drug resistant tuberculosis to its updated Model List of Essential Medicines (EML), opening the way for potentially improved access at affordable prices by patients worldwide.
“When new effective medicines emerge to safely treat serious and widespread diseases, it is vital to ensure that everyone who needs them can obtain them,” says Margaret Chan, the director-general of the WHO. Placing them on the EML is a first step in that direction, she adds.
The EML, which is updated every two years by an expert committee, is used by governments and institutions around the world as a reference guide to update and prioritise local essential medicines lists.
New medicines added to the 19th EML edition, published on 8 May 2015, include five direct acting oral antivirals to treat hepatitis C, including sofosbuvir and daclatasvir.
But WHO acknowledged that high prices currently make them unaffordable, and thus inaccessible for most patients who need them. “While some efforts have been made to reduce their price for low-income countries, without uniform strategies to make these medicines more affordable globally the potential for public health gains will be reduced considerably,” says Marie-Paule Keiny, WHO assistant director-general for health systems and innovation.
A total of 16 new cancer medicines were added to the EML, including trastuzumab for breast cancer. A batch of five new products were also added to the EML to treat tuberculosis, of which four, including bedaquiline and delamanid, target MDR-TB.
The EML includes medicines on the basis of their safety and efficacy evidence, not on the basis of approved indications within national jurisdictions or availability of licensed alternatives, according to WHO.