WHO updates global guidance on medicines, diagnostic tests

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Staff Reporter

Karachi

World Health Organization (WHO) has updated its Essential Medicines List and List of Essential Diagnostics, the core guidance documents that help countries prioritize critical health products that should be widely available and affordable throughout health systems. According to a WHO communication received here Monday the two lists for the year 2019, issued on July 9, focus on cancer and other global health challenges, with an emphasis on effective solutions, smart prioritization, and optimal access for patients.
“Around the world, more than 150 countries use WHO’s Essential Medicines List to guide decisions about which medicines represent the best value for money, based on evidence and health impact, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was quoted to have said. The inclusion in this list of some of the newest and most advanced cancer drugs was said to be a strong statement that everyone deserves access to these life-saving medicines, not just those who can afford them.
The List of Essential (in vitro) Diagnostics 2019 has been expanded to include more noncommunicable and communicable diseases with major focus on Cancers as 70% of cancer deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries largely because most patients are diagnosed too late. Keeping in view the critical importance of early and efficient diagnosis of cancers, WHO has added 12 tests to the Diagnostics List to detect a wide range of solid tumours such as colorectal, liver, cervical, prostate, breast and germ cell cancers, as well as leukemia and lymphomas.
To support appropriate cancer diagnosis, a new section covering anatomical pathology testing was added; this service must be made available in specialized laboratories. The list of essential diagnostics also focuses on additional infectious diseases prevalent in low- and middle-income countries such as cholera, and neglected diseases like leishmaniasis, schistosomiasis, dengue, and zika.
A new section for influenza testing was added for community health settings where no laboratories may be available are also included in the list that further incorporates general tests which address a range of different diseases and conditions, such as iron tests (for anemia), and tests to diagnose thyroid malfunction and sickle cell. As for Essential Medicines List (2019) WHO has added 12 medicines to the new Medicines List for five cancer therapies are regarded as the best in terms of survival rates to treat melanoma, lung, prostate, multiple myeloma and leukemias cancers.

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