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WHO Model List of Essential Medicines

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For the list for children, see WHO Model List of Essential Medicines for Children.

The WHO Model List of Essential Medicines (aka Essential Medicines List or EML), published by the World Health Organization (WHO), contains the medications considered to be most effective and safe to meet the most important needs in a health system. The list is frequently used by countries to help develop their own local lists of essential medicines. As of 2016, more than 155 countries have created national lists of essential medicines based on the World Health Organization's model list. This includes both developed and developing countries.

The list is divided into core items and complementary items. The core items are deemed to be the most cost-effective options for key health problems and are usable with little additional health care resources. The complementary items either require additional infrastructure such as specially trained health care providers or diagnostic equipment or have a lower cost-benefit ratio. About 25% of items are in the complementary list. Some medications are listed as both core and complementary. While most medications on the list are available as generic products, being under patent does not preclude inclusion.

The first list was published in 1977 and included 208 medications. The WHO updates the list every two years. There are 306 medications in the 14th list in 2005, 410 in the 19th list in 2015, 433 in the 20th list in 2017, 460 in the 21st list in 2019, and 479 in the 22nd list in 2021. Various national lists contain between 334 and 580 medications. 23rd The Essential Medicines List (EML) was updated in July 2023. This list contains 1200 recommendations for 591 drugs and 103 therapeutic equivalents.

A separate list for children up to 12 years of age, known as the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines for Children (EMLc), was created in 2007 and is in its 9th edition. It was created to make sure that the needs of children were systematically considered such as availability of proper formulations. Everything in the children's list is also included in the main list. The list and notes are based on the 19th to 23rd edition of the main list. An ? indicates a medicine is on the complementary list. Therapeutic alternatives with similar clinical performance are listed for some medicines and they may be considered for national essential medicines lists. The 9th Essential Medicines List for Children was updated in July 2023.

Table of contents
  1. Anaesthetics, preoperative medicines and medical gases
  2. Medicines for pain and palliative care
  3. Antiallergics and medicines used in anaphylaxis
  4. Antidotes and other substances used in poisonings
  5. Medicines for diseases of the nervous system
  6. Anti-infective medicines
  7. Antimigraine medicines
  8. Immunomodulators and antineoplastics
  9. Therapeutic foods
  10. Medicines affecting the blood
  11. Blood products of human origin and plasma substitutes
  12. Cardiovascular medicines
  13. Dermatological medicines (topical)
  14. Diagnostic agents
  15. Antiseptics and disinfectants
  16. Diuretics
  17. Gastrointestinal medicines
  18. Medicines for endocrine disorders
  19. Immunologicals
  20. Muscle relaxants (peripherally-acting) and cholinesterase inhibitors
  21. Ophthalmological preparations
  22. Medicines for reproductive health and perinatal care
  23. Peritoneal dialysis solution
  24. Medicines for mental and behavioural disorders
  25. Medicines acting on the respiratory tract
  26. Solutions correcting water, electrolyte and acid-base disturbances
  27. Vitamins and minerals
  28. Ear, nose and throat medicines
  29. Medicines for diseases of joints
  30. Dental medicines and preparations

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Anaesthetics, preoperative medicines and medical gases

General anaesthetics and oxygen

Inhalational medicines Injectable medicines Local anaesthetics Complementary: Preoperative medication and sedation for short-term procedures Medical gases
Medicines for pain and palliative care

Non-opioids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIMs) Opioid analgesics Complementary: Medicines for other common symptoms in palliative care
Antiallergics and medicines used in anaphylaxis

Antidotes and other substances used in poisonings

Non-specific Specific Complementary:
Medicines for diseases of the nervous system

Antiseizure medicines Complementary: Medicines for multiple sclerosis

Complementary: Medicines for parkinsonism
Anti-infective medicines


Intestinal anthelminthics Antifilarials Antischistosomals and other antinematode medicines Complementary: Cysticidal medicines

Complementary: Antibacterials

Access group antibiotics Watch group antibiotics Complementary: Reserve group antibiotics

Reserve antibiotics are last-resort antibiotics. The EML antibiotic book was published in 2022.

Complementary: Antileprosy medicines Antituberculosis medicines Complementary: Antifungal medicines Complementary: Antiviral medicines

Antiherpes medicines Antiretrovirals

Nucleoside/nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors Protease inhibitors Integrase inhibitors Fixed-dose combinations of antiretroviral medicines Medicines for prevention of HIV-related opportunistic infections Other antivirals Complementary: Antihepatitis medicines

Medicines for hepatitis B

Nucleoside/Nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors Medicines for hepatitis C

Pangenotypic direct-acting antiviral combinations Non-pangenotypic direct-acting antiviral combinations Other antivirals for hepatitis C Antiprotozoal medicines

Antiamoebic and antigiardiasis medicines Antileishmaniasis medicines Antimalarial medicines

For curative treatment For chemoprevention Antipneumocystosis and antitoxoplasmosis medicines Complementary: Antitrypanosomal medicines

African trypanosomiasis Medicines for the treatment of 1st stage African trypanosomiasis Medicines for the treatment of 2nd stage African trypanosomiasis Complementary: American trypanosomiasis Medicines for ectoparasitic infections Medicines for Ebola virus disease Medicines for COVID-19

No listings in this section.

Antimigraine medicines

For treatment of acute attack For prophylaxis
Immunomodulators and antineoplastics

Immunomodulators for non-malignant disease

Complementary: Antineoplastics and supportive medicines

Cytotoxic medicines

Complementary: Targeted therapies

Complementary: Immunomodulators

Complementary: Hormones and antihormones

Complementary: Supportive medicines

Therapeutic foods

Medicines affecting the blood

Antianaemia medicines Complementary: Medicines affecting coagulation Complementary: Other medicines for haemoglobinopathies Complementary:
Blood products of human origin and plasma substitutes

Blood and blood components Plasma-derived medicines

Human immunoglobulins Complementary: Blood coagulation factors

Complementary: Plasma substitutes
Cardiovascular medicines

Antianginal medicines Antiarrhythmic medicines Complementary: Antihypertensive medicines Complementary: Medicines used in heart failure Complementary: Antithrombotic medicines

Anti-platelet medicines Thrombolytic medicines

Complementary: Lipid-lowering agents Fixed-dose combinations for prevention of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease
Dermatological medicines (topical)

Antifungal medicines Anti-infective medicines Anti-inflammatory and antipruritic medicines Medicines affecting skin differentiation and proliferation Complementary: Scabicides and pediculicides
Diagnostic agents

Ophthalmic medicines Radiocontrast media Complementary:
Antiseptics and disinfectants

Antiseptics Disinfectants
Gastrointestinal medicines

Complementary: Antiulcer medicines Antiemetic medicines Complementary: Anti-inflammatory medicines Complementary: Laxatives Medicines used in diarrhoea Oral rehydration Medicines for diarrhoea
Medicines for endocrine disorders

Adrenal hormones and synthetic substitutes Androgens

Complementary: Estrogens

No listings in this section.

Progestogens Medicines for diabetes

Insulins Oral hypoglycaemic agents Complementary: Medicines for hypoglycaemia Complementary: Thyroid hormones and antithyroid medicines Complementary: Medicines for disorders of the pituitary hormone system Complementary:

Diagnostic agents Sera, immunoglobulins and monoclonal antibodies Vaccines

Recommendations for all Recommendations for certain regions Recommendations for some high-risk populations Recommendations for immunization programmes with certain characteristics
Muscle relaxants (peripherally-acting) and cholinesterase inhibitors
Ophthalmological preparations

Anti-infective agents Anti-inflammatory agents Local anesthetics Miotics and antiglaucoma medicines Mydriatics Complementary: Anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) preparations

Medicines for reproductive health and perinatal care


Oral hormonal contraceptives Injectable hormonal contraceptives Intrauterine devices Barrier methods Implantable contraceptives Intravaginal contraceptives Ovulation inducers

Complementary: Uterotonics Antioxytocics (tocolytics) Other medicines administered to the mother Medicines administered to the neonate Complementary:
Peritoneal dialysis solution

Medicines for mental and behavioural disorders

Medicines used in psychotic disorders Complementary: Medicines used in mood disorders

Medicines used in depressive disorders Medicines used in bipolar disorders Medicines for anxiety disorders Medicines used for obsessive compulsive disorders Medicines for disorders due to psychoactive substance use

Medicines for alcohol use disorders Medicines for nicotine use disorders Complementary:
Medicines acting on the respiratory tract

Antiasthmatic medicines and medicines for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
Solutions correcting water, electrolyte and acid-base disturbances

Oral Parenteral Miscellaneous
Vitamins and minerals
Ear, nose and throat medicines

Medicines for diseases of joints

Medicines used to treat gout Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) Complementary: Medicines for juvenile joint diseases

Dental medicines and preparations

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