WHO launches a digital version of its Model list of Essential Medicines (EML)

The World Health Organization has launched a new easy-to-access, digital version of its Model list of Essential Medicines (EML). The move will revolutionize the way this core WHO reference tool is used.

More than 150 countries currently use the WHO list to work out which medicines best meet their national health contexts and priorities, so they can compile their own national essential medicines lists.

Essential medicines are those that satisfy the priority health care needs of a population. They are the medicines that need to be available in a functioning health system at all times, in appropriate dosage forms, of assured quality, and at prices individuals and the community can afford.

Keeping up-to-date lists of the most important medicines a country needs is key to achieving health for all in a sustainable way.

Since 1977, the WHO list has been revised every 2 years (most recently in 2019) by a group of experts and published in print or PDF formats. It includes information about available dose forms and strengths; specifications as to who should take a medicine; what conditions a medicine can treat and how it should be taken, as well as details about the clinical evidence supporting recommendations being made.

The new electronic version brings the traditional EML to smartphones and computer screens in a comprehensive, freely accessible, online database. Instead of flicking through pages of information, users can search by simply clicking on the name of a medicine, for example, or a health issue. They can also make their own customized lists by exporting the list – in full or in part – into an Excel or Word version.  

The electronic EML is the latest step in WHO’s effort to harness digital technologies to drive improvements in global public health, and advance progress towards universal health coverage. 


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