UN health agency publishes first-ever global reference guide for essential medicines

4 September 2002

In a bid to promote the safe and cost-effective use of medicines, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) today released a guide to help governments develop their own national prescription formulas.

The WHO Model Formulary, which is the first-ever publication to give comprehensive information on all 325 medicines contained in the UN agency's Model List of Essential Drugs, aims to improve patient safety and limit superfluous medical spending. It presents information on the recommended use, dosage, adverse effects, contra-indications and warnings of these medicines.

According to WHO, bad prescribing habits are very common in all countries, leading to ineffective and unsafe treatment, exacerbation or prolongation of illness and harm to the patient. Inappropriate treatment also increases the costs to the patient, the insurance system or the government.

The new formulary is intended primarily as a model for national governments and institutions, to be used as a basis for developing their own national formularies. It is particularly relevant for developing countries, where commercial and promotional materials are often the only available source of drug information to health workers, prescribers and patients. The WHO formulary may also be useful for individual prescribers.

"Unfortunately, developing countries do not always have access to unbiased information about medicines," said Dr. Hans Hogerzeil, from the WHO Essential Drugs and Medicines Policy department. "The formulary aims to address that problem and provide a service based solely on scientific evidence."

 

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