The World Health Organization (WHO) has added three multiple sclerosis (MS) therapies to its Model Lists of Essential Medicines (EML), according to a recent announcement. Glatiramer acetate (Copaxone), Mavenclad (cladribine), and rituximab have been included on the list due to their ability to safely and cost-effectively slow or delay the progression of MS.
MS is a neurological condition that affects approximately 2.8 million people worldwide and is the most common nontraumatic cause of neurological disability in young adults. The inclusion of these medications on the EML is expected to address an important public health need and support efforts to reduce the global burden of MS, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.
The EML is updated every two years and brings together medications that are considered high priority, safe, and cost-effective for healthcare systems. Its aim is to promote equitable access to medications for health conditions with a significant global burden, without negatively impacting the health budgets of low- and middle-income countries.
The committee responsible for selecting medications for the EML comprises academic, research, medical, and pharmaceutical specialists. Glatiramer acetate, Mavenclad, and rituximab were chosen as the most effective, tolerable, and affordable options for MS treatment, based on evidence of their safety and therapeutic benefits in various settings.
These medications are suitable for specific patient populations, including pregnant women, and have different routes of administration, prices, and recommended indications, which will facilitate access to MS therapies globally.
Ocrevus (ocrelizumab) was also considered for inclusion on the EML as a therapy for primary progressive MS but was not included due to insufficient evidence demonstrating its superiority over rituximab, which works similarly and is more affordable.
Currently, the EML consists of 502 essential medicines, covering conditions such as cardiovascular disease, infectious disease, and cancer. More than 150 countries use the WHO lists to guide their decisions on medication availability and coverage.
The WHO is committed to supporting countries in overcoming obstacles to ensure consistent and equitable access to quality-assured essential medicines. The addition of these three MS therapies to the EML represents an important step towards improving the lives of millions of people living with MS globally.