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07.06.17

RCGP backs update to WHO essential medicines list

New advice on the use and prescribing of antibiotics to tackle common infections released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) has been welcomed by an influential group of UK doctors.

Yesterday, WHO published new guidelines on medicines for HIV, hepatitis C, tuberculosis and leukaemia that add 30 medicines for adults and 25 for children, whilst also specifying new uses for nine already listed products. This brings the total number of medicines to 433 drugs deemed necessary for addressing public health needs.

“Safe and effective medicines are an essential part of any health system,” said Dr Marie-Paule Kieny, WHO assistant director general for Health Systems and Innovation. “Making sure all people can access the medicines they need, when and where they need them, is vital to countries’ progress towards universal health coverage.”

And Dr Suzanne Hill, director of essential medicines and health products at WHO, added that the rise in antibiotic resistance stems from how we are using – and misusing – these medicines.

“The new WHO list should help health system planners and prescribers ensure people who need antibiotics have access to them, and ensure they get the right one, so that the problem of resistance doesn’t get worse,” she said.

Today, the Royal College of GPs (RCGP) has voiced its support for the update to the essential medicines list, especially in the fight to tackle infections becoming resistant to antibiotics.

“Growing resistance to antibiotics is a serious threat to our patients’ health worldwide, so we welcome the WHO taking action to help curb this,” said Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the RCGP.

“GPs and other prescribers must have access to guidance and tools that help us prescribe safely for all conditions, in the best interests of individual patients and public health globally – and this updated Essential Medicines List should be useful in our daily practice.”

The RCGP chair also stated that it was important the list was constantly evaluated and updated as new research was published in a way that preserves the efficacy of the drugs doctors have available to them for as long as possible, in the long-term interests of the health of our global population.

“What is also necessary is for more investment and research into developing new drugs, particularly antibiotics, so that we have more options available to tackle emerging diseases, so that we can keep our patients’ safe for years to come,” added Prof Stokes-Lampard.

“Other resources are also available, and the College has worked with Public Health England to develop the TARGET antibiotics toolkit to support GPs and other prescribing healthcare professionals to prescribe antibiotics appropriately.”

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