In 1977, a WHO Expert Committee compiled a list of essential drugs.
The WHO list is a model which developing countries can use to make
their own selection of essential drugs which were considered "basic,
necessary and indispensable to the health needs of the population"
(4). They are to be identified by their generic names.
an essential drugs policy means the availability of a minimum number
of rational drugs that will satisfy the health care needs of the
majority of the people. The key elements in the concept of essential
drugs are that they be rational, scientifically proven, therapeutically
effective, safe for use, economical and readily available in the
criteria for the selection of the essential drugs depends on such
factors as: prevalent disease patterns, available treatment facilities,
training of existing health personnel, financial resources, and
the genetic, demographic and environmental factors that influence
the state of health and illness in a particular country. They should
have gone through adequate clinical tests and found to be safe and
effective. Another significant factor is its affordable price and
essential drugs list may vary from country to country depending
on the above factors. The selection of essential drugs is a continuous
process of evaluating the current health needs of the country. The
WHO list serves as a model list for adoption in national health
policy. It is revised and updated periodically. The sixth list was
published in 1990. The seventh list was published in 1992 containing
221 drugs (5). Subsequent revisions have been published in 1995
and 1997. (See also Annexure 2 for a sample of country experiences.)
essential drugs programme would:
the number of drugs to be produced.
the quality of drug management, drug information, and monitoring
the cost to the consumer and to the country as a whole.
of an Essential Drugs List
advantages of adopting an Essential Drugs List is mainly four-fold.
They are: medical, social, economic and administrative (6).
is medically, therapeutically and scientifically sound, and it ensures
rational use of drugs.
limits the use of irrational and hazardous drugs and decreases the
risks of iatrogenesis (drug and doctor-induced disease).
improves the possibility of monitoring adverse drug reactions in