Selection of WHO-Recommended Essential Medicines for Non-Communicable Diseases on National Essential Medicines Lists
(2019; 15 pages)

Jarvis JD, Woods H, Bali A, Oronsaye E, Persaud N (2019) Selection of WHO-recommended essential medicines for non-communicable diseases on National Essential Medicines Lists. PLoS ONE 14(8):e0220781.


Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are the leading cause of death worldwide. Inadequate and inequitable access to essential NCD medicines is a major concern, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. National Essential Medicines Lists (EMLs) are important policy tools that indicate which medicines are prioritized as essential within a country’s health system. This study sought to analyze a wide range of national essential medicines lists (EMLs) for their inclusion of priority non communicable disease (NCD) interventions recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Three lists of WHO endorsed priority NCD interventions were included. A database with 137 national EMLs and the WHO EML was created from the WHO Repository and these EMLs were compared for listing of priority NCD interventions.

Across 137 countries with national EMLs, the median percentage of 20 Best Buys interventions listed was 90% (IQR 80–95) and 31 Package of essential noncommunicable disease interventions (PEN) interventions listed was 94% (IQR 90–97), of 9 HEARTS interventions was 100% (IQR 89–100), and of the 43 unique interventions across the three priority lists was 88% (IQR 84–93). Less than 80% of the 43 interventions were listed by 22 (16%) countries and less than half of the interventions were listed by 2 countries: Angola (35%) and Cambodia (23%). Interventions listed on the fewest number of national EMLs were: influenza vaccine, HPV vaccine, hepatitis B vaccine, cervical cancer chemotherapy, codeine, promethazine, senna, and oxygen.

Most NCD interventions have been prioritized in national policy in most cases. The majority of priority medicines for NCDs described within key WHO NCD technical packages are listed on nearly all national EMLs across 137 countries of all income levels. Most NCD interventions have been prioritized in national policy in most cases, but in some countries and for select interventions such as the HPV vaccine, prioritization may be reviewed.

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