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Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Print version ISSN 0042-9686

Bull World Health Organ vol.80 n.10 Genebra Oct. 2002 

WHO releases global reference guide on 325 essential medicines

The first edition of the WHO Model Formulary was released on 4 September. It provides comprehensive information on all 325 of the medicines on WHO's Model List of Essential Drugs. Recommended use, dosage, adverse effects, contraindications and warnings are given for each drug. The main aims of publishing this information are to increase patient safety, reduce waste in medical spending, and help to correct bad prescribing habits.

The new formulary provides a model for governments and institutions responsible for national formularies. It will meet an acute need especially in places where advertising is the only source of information on the drugs available to health workers, prescribers and patients. As Hans Hogerzeil, from WHO's department of Essential Drugs and Medicines Policy, puts it: "Unfortunately, developing countries do not always have access to unbiased information about medicines. The formulary aims to address that problem and provide a service based solely on scientific evidence." Only about two-thirds of the populations in developing countries are thought to have some form of access to essential medicines, and a major barrier to access is lack of information.

The WHO Model List of Essential Medicines has been recently updated to include 12 essential antiretroviral medicines for the treatment of HIV/AIDS. The list is compiled and revised to focus pharmaceutical efforts on priority needs and the medicines best suited to meeting them effectively, safely and affordably. The vast majority of medicines on the list are well-established and well- known products which are off patent and available from many sources.

The Formulary is available at