Are We Moving Towards a New Definition of Essential Medicines?
(2015; 3 pages)

Manikandan S. Are we moving towards a new definition of essential medicines?. J Pharmacol Pharmacother 2015;6:123-5.


Essential medicines are defined as "those that satisfy the priority health care needs of the population", with the concept being that they are intended to be available within the context of a functioning healthcare system at all times, in adequate amounts, in appropriate dosage forms, with assured quality and at a price that individual and country can afford. The selection depends on the public health importance of the disease or the condition being treated, good‑quality clinical evidence of efficacy and safety, along with comparative cost‑effectiveness of the different treatments that are available. Individual drugs and dosage forms are selected based on stability, ease of use, and the need for specialized diagnostic, monitoring, or treatment facilities. This concept, though deceptively simple and easy to understand, becomes extremely complex and hard to adhere to when preparing a list for a given country. However, the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) Model List stands out like a guiding beacon and is the gold standard to which all countries compare their selections with and turn to in case they face indecision during selection.

WHO came out with its 19th Model List of Essential Medicines (EML) and 5th Model List of Essential Medicines for Children in April 2015. Thirty‑six medicines have been added to the adult list and 16 to the children’s list. The policy of WHO seems to be shifting ever so slightly to encompass the difficulties facing health care, especially in developed countries. The current list shows quite a few differences from the previous list.

The WHO Essential Medicines and Health Products Information Portal was designed and is maintained by Human Info NGO. Last updated: December 1, 2019