Intended for healthcare professionals

Letters WHO on essential medicines

On WHO’s essential medicines process and transparency

BMJ 2014; 349 doi: (Published 17 September 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g5637
  1. Nicola Magrini, scientist1,
  2. Jane Robertson, technical officer1,
  3. Kees de Joncheere, director1,
  4. Lisa Bero, professor and chair of WHO expert committees on the selection and use of essential medicines in 2011 and 20132
  1. 1Essential Medicines List Secretariat, Essential Medicines and Health Products Department, World Health Organization, 1211 Geneva 27, Switzerland
  2. 2Medicines Use and Health Outcomes, Faculty of Pharmacy and Charles Perkins Centre, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
  1. magrinin{at}

Barbui and Purgato have critiqued the processes used to select WHO’s list of essential medicines and provided suggestions on how it could be improved.1

As mentioned, reforms in 2001 substantially changed the way that the expert committee reviews submissions, introducing systematic evidence synthesis and appraisal as a requirement, along with an assessment of comparative cost and cost effectiveness. In addition, WHO made the processes transparent, with all submitted data and reviews publicly available, and introduced opportunities for public comment.

The authors raise three major issues regarding …

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