Understanding the Role and Use of Essential Medicines Lists
(2015; 50 pages)


Since the establishment of the concept of “essential medicines” by the World Health Organization (WHO), it has evolved and matured into a critically important element of national health system policies and practices. As the movement toward universal health coverage strengthens, so does the role of essential medicines as a key part of bringing to all people the health services they need without suffering financial hardship when paying for them.

As the WHO moves toward a revision of the model Essential Medicines List, it is timely to revisit the evolution of the list since 1977 and its use across a range of countries.

The purpose of this report is to:

  • Summarize how the Essential Medicines List has changed between 1977 and 2013 and the process by which the model list is revised
  • Describe the ways in which the WHO’s list is used by national health systems in developing their own lists of essential medicines
  • Review and compare the national lists for a range of countries and factors affecting local implementation
  • Provide considerations for future revisions of the WHO model list.

In reviewing national systems, a selection of middle- and low-income countries were selected from Asia, Africa and Latin America, including Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malawi, the Philippines, South Africa, and Tanzania.

Le Portail d'information - Médicaments essentiels et produits de santé a été conçu et est maintenu par l'ONG Human Info. Dernière mise à jour: le 1 décembre 2019