In July, the World Health Organization (WHO) published the 24th edition of its Model List of Essential Medications (EML). For the first time since the EML was published in 1977, it includes medications for the treatment of alcohol use disorder (AUD)- naltrexone and acamprosate. This is big news for individuals worldwide suffering from AUD. Keep reading to discover why.

Who is WHO?

WHO is a United Nations specialized agency founded in 1948 dedicated to health. Its headquarters is in Geneva, Switzerland and is governed by a constitution signed by its members. Membership to WHO is open to any member of the United Nations. There are currently 194 member states.

What’s is the EML?

The purpose of the EML is to identify the minimum evidence-based medications necessary for functioning health systems and to promote better access to medicines. The EML is a list of the medications considered essential to address key public health needs worldwide. According to WHO’s website, the EML aims “to facilitate greater access to innovative medicines that show clear clinical benefits. These treatments could have a very large public health impact globally without jeopardizing the health budgets of low- and middle-income countries.”

The EML is used globally as a policy tool for prioritization, selection, and very importantly coverage decisions.

How does a medicine get added to the EML?

Experts from academia, research, and the medical and pharmaceutical professions from around the world convene every two years to review applications to revise the EML. Applications can be submitted by departments within WHO as well as outside organizations. The applications are available on the WHO’s website for public comment.

This year the expert committee comprised of 19 individuals reviewed 85 applications representing requests for revisions related to more than 100 medications. The committee recommended adding 24 medicines for adults and 12 for children. These additions bring the total number of medications to 502 for adults and 361 for children. Thirty-two applications were not recommended.

The applications for naltrexone and acamprosate were submitted by Bassem Ghali, M.D. and Sandeep P. Kishore, M.D., PhD. from the University of California, San Francisco, and Adrià Jiménez Bacardí, M.D. from the University of California, San Diego. You can access their application for naltrexone and the experts’ review comments here.

How does inclusion in the EML help?

Reducing and removing barriers are critical elements for the treatment of AUD. Barriers include the lack of education, access, and coverage. With alcohol consumption contributing to 3 million deaths per year globally and millions more impacted by poor health, AUD is a major public health concern.1 By including naltrexone and acamprosate on the EML, WHO is recognizing these medications as evidence-based effective treatment options for AUD, providing global recognition of the benefits medications bring to treating AUD.
If you or someone you know if suffering from AUD, reach out to us today by clicking here.