The World Health Organisation has released a new list of treatments for hepatitis C, a variety of cancers (including breast cancer and leukaemia) and tuberculosis.
In a statement issued on Friday in Geneva, Switzerland, the global health body said the published latest edition of its Model List of Essential Medicines would open the way to improve access to innovative medicines that show clear clinical benefits and could have huge public health impact.
“When new effective medicines emerge to safely treat serious and widespread diseases, it is vital to ensure that everyone who needs them can obtain them. Placing them on the WHO Essential Medicines List is a first step in that direction,” the WHO Director-General, Dr. Margaret Chan, said.
According to the WHO, the list is updated every two years by an Expert Committee, made up of recognised specialists from the academia, research and the medical and pharmaceutical professions. This year, the UN agency noted that the committee underscored the urgent need to take action to promote equitable access and use of several new highly effective medicines, some of which are currently too costly even for high-income countries.
“These include new medicines to treat hepatitis C, which affects about 150 million people globally, killing approximately half a million people each year, when chronic infection develops into liver cirrhosis or liver cancer. The disease is present in high- and lower-income countries alike, with higher concentrations in several middle- and low-income countries.
“Cancers figure among the leading causes of illness and death worldwide, with approximately 14 million new cases and 8.2 million cancer-related deaths in 2012. The number of new cases is expected to rise by about 70 per cent over the next two decades. New breakthroughs have been made in cancer treatment in the last years, which prompted WHO to revise the full cancer segment of the Essential Medicines List this year: 52 products were reviewed and 30 treatments confirmed, with 16 new medicines included in the list,” the statement added.
The WHO stated further that after about 45 years of scarce innovation for TB medicines, five new products were included in the EML. It said four of these, including bedaquiline and delamanid, targeted multi-drug-resistant TB.