WHO Updates Essential Medicines List (2023): Obesity Drugs Removed; Ebola and MS Drugs Added


The World Health Organization (WHO) has just updated its 23rd Essential Medicines List. This list includes medicines that are really important for good healthcare. It now has some new medicines for diseases like Ebola and multiple sclerosis. But the current list doesn’t include medicines for obesity.

What are Essential Medicines?

Essential medicines are those that satisfy the priority healthcare needs of a population. The experts choose these medicines by considering how common the disease is and how important it is to public health. They also make sure the medicines work well and are safe. The goal is always to have these medicines available in working health systems. They come in forms that are easy to use, are of good quality, and are affordable for individuals and health systems.

Why Does the List Matter?

The WHO updates the Essential Medicines List and the Essential Medicines List for Children every two years. These lists are like guides for countries and regions to decide which medicines are most important for their people. This helps them make their lists of essential medicines that fit their needs. Choosing a smaller number of essential medicines can make it easier to get these medicines, prescribe them correctly, and lower costs for everyone.

The update showcases the WHO’s commitment to comprehensive healthcare provision. With the addition of 36 new items, the Essential Medicines List has grown to encompass 502 medicines for adults and 361 for children. This expansion emphasizes the organization’s dedication to ensuring that essential treatments are accessible to a wider population.

The new list is a big step forward for helping people worldwide. The medicines added to the list are chosen very carefully. They are chosen because they can treat diseases that many people have. They must also be safe, work well, and not cost too much.

Addition of New Treatments

  • Ebola
    There are some special new medicines on the list to help with Ebola. These medicines, called Anzuvimab, Atoltivimab, Maftivimab, and Odesivimab, are used to treat Ebola. This is really important for places where Ebola is a big problem. These medicines can help save lives during outbreaks.
  • Multiple Sclerosis
    People who have multiple sclerosis (MS) now have new treatments on the list. MS is a serious problem that affects the nervous system. The new medicines are called Cladribine, Glatiramer Acetate, and Rituximab. They can help reduce the effects of MS and make life better for those who have it.
  • Alcohol Problems and Malnutrition
    The list now also has medicines to help people with trouble with alcohol. These medicines, Naltrexone and Acamprosate, can support people who want to stop drinking too much. Additionally, there’s a special food called Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) for young kids who are very malnourished. This food can help them get healthy again.

The Process of Choosing the Right Medicines

Choosing which medicines to put on the list is not easy. The experts at WHO look at many things before deciding. They think about how many people have the disease if the medicine works well, and if it is safe. They also think about how much it costs. They want to make sure that the medicines on the list can be used by doctors worldwide.

Not Included in the List

  • Obesity Medicines
    Even though some people wanted obesity medicines to be on the list, they didn’t make it. The experts said they are unsure if these medicines work well and are safe for a long time. This means they need more information before putting them on the list.
  • COVID-19
    The list also talks about COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus. Instead of listing medicines, the list tells doctors to look at the special guidelines from WHO for treating COVID-19. This is because the situation with COVID-19 has been changing a lot, and the list is not updated very often.


The new WHO Essential Medicines List is a big step in helping people all around the world. It adds important medicines for serious diseases like Ebola, multiple sclerosis, and alcohol problems. Even though some medicines, like obesity drugs, are not on the list, the WHO experts ensure that only the best and safest medicines are included. This list is helpful for doctors and governments to give the right medicines to people who need them the most. By updating the list every two years, WHO helps countries make good choices about medicines for their people’s health.


  1. WHO. WHO Model List of Essential Medicines – 23rd list, 2023. (Accessed on: Aug 8, 2023) Available at:
  2. WHO. WHO endorses landmark public health decisions on Essential Medicines for Multiple Sclerosis. (Accessed on: Aug 8, 2023) Available at:
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