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WHO leaves breakthrough cancer therapies off updated Essential Medicines List

Published on 10/07/19 at 10:09am

The World Health Organization (WHO) has updated its list of essential medicines to include 28 more drugs.

The WHO’s Essential Medicine List (EML) has been updated to include 28 new medicines including five cancer therapies.

However a number of breakthrough cancer therapies have been left of the updated list including Merck’s Keytruda, Roche’s Tencentriq and Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Opdivo.

“The Committee considered that their place in therapy for this condition is still evolving and that more data with longer follow-up are needed to better demonstrate estimates of their actual magnitude of benefit,” the WHO said.

Roche commented: “We are disappointed that, on this occasion, our checkpoint inhibitor Tecentriq is not included in the EML.”

Additionally, the WHO put abortion pill mifepristone on its core list of essential medicines. However the WHO noted that the drug should only be used “where permitted under national law and where culturally acceptable.”

The new list also includes three new antibiotics, new oral anticoagulants, a number of new biologics for rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease, and oxytocin-analogue carbetocin for the prevention of postpartum haemorrhage. Sanofi’s Dengue vaccine Dengvaxia also features on the WHO’s updated list.

Louis Goss

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