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Friday, December 8, 2023

Hope rises for children as cancer drugs make WHO’s essential medicine list

Every year, an estimated 350,000 children are diagnosed with cancer in low- and middle-income countries, but many of them cannot access the treatment they need, the World Health Organisation said.

The WHO said only 25 per cent of low-income countries cover childhood cancer medicines in their health benefit packages, and this subjects children and families to significant suffering and financial hardship, or puts them at risk of receiving substandard and falsified medicines.

“As a result, survival of children in these countries is less than 30 percent, compared with more than 90 percent for children in high income countries,” the Director General of WHO, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus said.

However, to increase the survival rates of at least 60 per cent in low- and middle-income countries by 2030, focusing on six cancers that are highly curable and represent more than half of all childhood cancers, cancer medicines have been added to the latest version of the WHO Essential Medicines List and the Essential Medicines List for Children.

The President and Chief Executive Officer of St Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Dr Jim Downing, said the new lists also include important new medicines for the treatment of multiple sclerosis, infectious diseases and cardiovascular conditions, among others.

“These treatments could have a very large public health impact globally, without jeopardizing the health budgets of low- and middle-income countries.

“The recommended changes bring the number of medicines on the Essential Medicines List to 502, and 361 for the Essential Medicines List for Children.

“For over 40 years, countries all over the world have relied on the WHO Essential Medicines List as a definitive, evidence-based guide to the most important medicines for delivering the biggest health impact,” he said.

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