Essential medicines and health products

WHO to develop Essential Diagnostics List

The 20th WHO Model List of Essential Medicines was published on 6 June this year, with a number of important new additions, including a recommendation by the Expert Committee on the Selection of Essential Medicines that WHO develop an Essential Diagnostics List (EDL). Based on that recommendation, WHO has begun to lay the ground for the preparation of the list, which will become an important contribution to Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

Like the established Essential Medicines List, the EDL is intended to provide evidence-based guidance to countries to create their own national lists of essential diagnostic tests and tools. National essential medicines lists have been successful in facilitating access to treatment and promoting affordable prices, particularly in low-resourced countries, by prioritizing the most important medicines all countries need to make available to their populations. It is expected that national essential diagnostics lists will provide the same benefits for diagnostic tests.

“It’s clear that treatment if an illness will not be effective if it is not diagnosed correctly,” said Dr Suzanne Hill, WHO Director of Essential Medicines and Health Products. “The EDL will be another useful tool to help countries address their disease burden by focusing on evidence-based diagnostic tools.”

The WHO Expert Committee on the Selection and Use of Essential Medicines acknowledged that diagnostic tests are essential to “diagnose the disease or subpopulation for which certain medicines may be indicated, and to monitor the medication effectiveness or toxicity. Furthermore, often the diagnosis has important implications for prognosis. The Committee recognized that Member States and countries might seek advice about which technologies to prioritize, how to shift from one technology to another, and which technologies should accompany essential medicines since they are strongly interconnected."

The Committee also recommended that the EDL list initially focus on in vitro diagnostics (IVDs) for priority areas such as TB, malaria, HIV and Hepatitis B & C, but that it should be expanded as soon as possible to other important conditions, including other antimicrobials and non-communicable diseases.

As a first step, WHO is creating a Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on In Vitro Diagnostics (SAGE IVD), which will advise WHO on global policies and the development of the EDL.

Some of the benefits expected from the EDL are improved patient care, greater capacity to diagnose diseases during outbreaks, increased affordability of tests, improved regulation and quality of diagnostic tests and strengthened capabilities of national laboratories.

See WHO Expert Committee on the Selection and Use of Essential Medicines report (page 29 for the EDL recommendations):