Essential Medicine Concept and Essential Medicines List

1Rakesh K Patel, 2Anil Bhandari, 3Rakesh Kumar Rishi

Introductionb Drugs and pharmaceuticals are crucial health care products. An important function of any health care system is to deliver appropriate health products and services in reasonable, reliable and efficient manner. On the contrary, medically inappropriate, ineffective, and economically inefficient use of drugs and pharmaceuticals is a common practice in the health care system all over the world especially in the developing countries. This is revealed by various prescription audit studies. Such practice not only wastes resources, but also increases the risk of untoward effects to the patients. Due to these factors and many others, the concept of essential medicines emerged.
The concept of defining essential medicines and establishing a list of them was coined for the first time in a report made to the 1975 World Health Assembly. The idea of the report was to increase the scope and availability of medicines for populations with poor access. Accordingly, an "Expert Committee on the Use of Essential Medicines" was established by WHO to assist member states to select and procure essential medicines. The first WHO list of essential drugs was published in 1977 with 205 items. After thirty years of introduction of the essential medicines concept, a model Essential Medicine List (EML) for children was also introduced in 2007. At present there are over 300 items in the list published by WHO in 2009 which contains a core list and a complementary list. The WHO’s list of essential drugs and materials is a model list which is used for developing list of drugs at the national, regional, hospital and primary health centre levels. Each country is encouraged to prepare their own lists taking into consideration local priorities. At present over 150 countries have published an official essential medicines list including India.
What are essential medicines?
The essential drugs are those which meet the health care needs of the majority of population. Therefore, these drugs should always be available at all times in adequate amounts in the appropriate dosage forms. It is estimated that in 1999, over 1.7 billion people were deprived of access to the Essential Medicines. Such problems are still seen mainly in many parts of Asia and Africa. Now, the access to essential medicines has been acknowledged as a fundamental human right.
According to World Health Organization (WHO), "Essential medicines are those that satisfy the priority health care needs of the population. They are selected with due regard to public health relevance, evidence on efficacy and safety, and comparative cost-effectiveness. Essential medicines are intended to be available within the context of functioning health systems at all times in adequate amounts, in the appropriate dosage forms, with assured quality and adequate information, and at a price the individual and the community can afford."



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