The EML and EMLc serve as internationally recognized guides to assist countries' healthcare systems in prioritizing effective and affordable medications. Updated every two years, the WHO's new editions have expanded the total number of medications listed on the EML and EMLc to 502 and 361, respectively
Among the noteworthy additions to the 2023 list are three medications specifically designed to slow down the progression of multiple sclerosis (MS), a chronic nervous system disease that affects 2.8 million people worldwide One of these drugs, rituximab, which is typically used to treat certain cancers and autoimmune diseases, has been recommended for off-label use in treating MS due to its proven efficacy and safety
However, it is worth noting that despite requests from researchers in the world, obesity medications were not included in the list, the WHO committee rejected the application, citing the "uncertain long-term clinical benefit and safety in this patient population"
In an important milestone, the guidelines also recommend the use of "polypills" for the first time in the treatment of heart disease and other cardiovascular issues Polypills are combinations of medications that help lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol, regulate heartbeat, and may even include aspirin. Research has shown that these polypills can reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems by nearly 40%
Similarly, risdiplam for treating spinal muscular atrophy, donepezil for the treatment of dementia due to Alzheimer's disease, CAR-T cell therapy for lymphoma, and fast-acting oral transmucosal fentanyl for breakthrough cancer pain were not included in the updated lists
The WHO's release of the new EML and EMLc editions is a significant step forward in improving healthcare access and addressing a range of health conditions worldwide. By including effective and affordable medications for multiple sclerosis, cancer, infectious diseases, and cardiovascular issues, the WHO aims to provide countries with crucial guidance for their healthcare systems.
This update underscores the importance of research and innovation in the field of medicine, as new treatments continue to emerge that can positively impact the lives of millions globally. With the introduction of these new medicines, healthcare providers and policymakers will have access to updated information to help them make informed decisions in selecting appropriate treatments for their patients.