Health

UN adds new cancer treatment drugs to essential medicines list

According to the WHO, the five new cancer therapies are the best in terms of survival rates to treat melanoma, lung, blood and prostate cancers

 
Last Updated: Friday 12 July 2019

New cancer treatment drugs have been added to the United Nations list of essential medicines, announced the World Health Organization on July 10, 2019.

These cancer drugs don’t have to be injected. They can be swallowed.

According to the WHO, the five new cancer therapies are the best in terms of survival rates to treat melanoma, lung, blood and prostate cancers.

Nivolumab and Pembrolizumab, two new drugs to treat melanoma, a skin cancer largely considered incurable, delivered up to 50 per cent survival rates.

Essential Medicines List, published by the WHO, contains medications that are considered most effective and safe to meet the essential needs in a health system. The list is updated every two years and around 155 countries utilise it to draft their national drug policies.

The first such list came out in 1977 with 212 medications. The WHO released its 21st list this time with 460 medications.

Many countries have adopted the concept of essential medicines and have developed lists of their own, using the EML as a guide. The EML is updated and revised every two years by the WHO Expert Committee on the Selection and Use of Essential Medicines.

Other updates to the list include new oral anticoagulants to prevent stroke, an alternative to warfarin treatment of deep vein thrombosis. The list focuses on additional infectious diseases prevalent in developing countries such as cholera, dengue, and Zika.

The list was also expanded to include additional general tests which address a range of different diseases and conditions, such as iron tests for anemia and tests to diagnose thyroid malfunction and sickle cell anaemia, which is very widely present in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The WHO insists that these life-saving medicines be made available and cost effective so that everyone can access them.

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