Monographs for medicines on WHO’s Model List of Essential Medicines (Bull World Health Organ 2018;96:378–385)
(2018; 8 pages)


Objective: To raise awareness about the importance of public pharmaceutical standards, identify if and, if so, where current pharmacopeias are falling short in the development of new and complete monographs and foster collaboration among the various pharmacopeias, to prioritize, develop and make available standards for those key medicines for which no complete monographs exist.

Methods: In August 2017, we mined eight pharmacopeias to identify which of the 669 medicines in the 20th edition of the World Health Organization’s Model List of Essential Medicines were covered by complete or incomplete monographs. The pharmacopeias we included were the Brazilian Pharmacopoeia, the British Pharmacopoeia, the Indian Pharmacopeia Commission, the International Pharmacopoeia, the Japanese Pharmacopoeia, the Mexican Pharmacopoeia, the Pharmacopeia of the People’s Republic of China and the United States Pharmacopeia.

Findings: For 99 (15%) of the medicines on the Model List, no monographs were available in any of the eight pharmacopeias investigated. Only 3% (1/30) of the cardiovascular medicines listed, but 28% (9/32) of the antiretroviral medicines and 23% (6/26) of the antimalarial medicines lacked monographs.

Conclusion: There appear to be no public standards for many so-called essential medicines. To address this shortfall, a greater collaboration in the global health community is needed.

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