The model list of essential medicines was created by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 1977 to offer governments a reference resource to help in the choice of medicines and the establishment of national essential medicine lists.

Essential medicines are those that respond to the priority health needs of a population.  They are chosen according to disease prevalence, safety, efficacy, and a comparison of cost-effectiveness.

Since its inception, the Model List of Essential Medicines has proven to be a useful and practical tool for the promotion of primary health care by streamlining the selection and use of drugs and their cost. It has been updated every two years and is in its 20th update.

Now, the World Health Organization has published its first Essential Diagnostics List which is “a catalog of tests needed to diagnose the most common diseases as well as a number of global priority diseases”. This long-awaited document can be useful for many of us and / or our colleagues, whether in a laboratory, in clinical services, as program managers, buyers, in health centres …

As described by WHO (see diagnosis-and-treatment-results), this first list focuses on in vitro tests (and therefore not on the person) and contains 113 products: 58 tests for the detection and diagnosis of a wide range of common conditions and 55 tests for the detection, diagnosis and monitoring of diseases such as HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, hepatitis B and C, human papillomavirus and syphilis. WHO also notes that some tests are particularly suitable for primary health care settings, where laboratory services are often underfunded and sometimes non-existent; for example, tests that quickly diagnose a child for acute malaria or glucose meters to test for diabetes. These tests do not require electricity or qualified personnel. Other tests are more sophisticated and therefore intended for larger medical facilities.

For each test category, the following elements are specified: type of test and intended use, format and, where appropriate, whether it is for primary health care or for health facilities with laboratories. In addition, there are links to WHO guidelines or publications and, where available, to WHO prequalified products.

It should be noted that, “like the WHO Essential Medicines List, the list of essential diagnostics is intended to serve as a reference for countries to update or develop their own list of essential diagnostics. In order to truly benefit patients, national governments will need to ensure adequate and quality supplies, training of health care workers and safe use. To this end, WHO will help countries to adapt the list to the local context”. And, like the WHO Essential Medicines List, the list of essential diagnostics will be updated and expanded on a regular basis.