Dental Tribune India

Dental products included in WHO Essential Medicines List- first time in 45 years

By Dr. Divyesh Mundra
October 07, 2021

In a first for dentistry, the World Health Organization (WHO) has included dental products in its Annual Model list of Essential Medicines (EML). WHO published and released its latest (22nd) edition on 1st October 2021. The EML aims to address global health priorities, identifying the medicines that are available, affordable, and considered most effective and safe to meet the most important needs in a health system. Dr. Divyesh Mundra, Assistant Editor (Public Health Policy), Dental Tribune South Asia gives us the details.

WHO’s EML is divided into core and complementary items. The core items are deemed to be the most cost-effective options for key health challenges. The complementary items require either additional infrastructure such as diagnostic equipment or specially trained healthcare providers.

WHO’s 1st Model Essential Medicines List (EML) was first published in 1977 and had 208 medicines. It is updated every 2 years by the Expert Committee on the selection and use of Essential Medicines. 150+ countries including India use WHO’s EML to develop their own National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM).

The meeting of the 23rd WHO Expert Committee on the selection and use of essential medicines did not consider any application for the inclusion of medicines for the treatment and prevention of COVID-19 and recommended the addition of 20 NEW medicines to the EML (13 to core & 7 to complementary list). The recommended changes bring the total no. of medicines (including fixed-dose combinations-FDC’s) on the EML to 479 from 460 in 2019.

Year Total no. of medicines in the Essential Medicines List (EML)
1977 (1st) 208
2015 410
2017 433
2019 460
2021 479

India published its 1st National List of Essential Medicines in 1996 and had 279 medicines and is revised every 5 years.

Year Total no. of medicines in the Essential Medicines List (EML)
1996 279
2011 348
2015 376
2021 399


Inclusion of dental preparations in the WHO's EML:

This is the 1st time that the WHO Expert Committee recommended the creation of a new section in EML on dental preparations considering the global burden of oral disease, particularly untreated dental caries, represents a significant global public health issue.

The following 3 were included in WHO’s Model List of Essential Medicines (2021)

  1. Fluoride toothpaste
  2. Glass Ionomer Cement
  3. Silver Diamine Fluoride

WHO Expert Committee noted Fluoride toothpaste (paste, cream, or gel) between 1000 to 1500 ppm has proven its effectiveness in preventing dental caries. The committee also noted glass ionomer cement and silver diamine fluoride offer significant benefits in preventing dental caries and can be used in atraumatic restorative treatment (ART) and in non-specialized settings in alignment with WHO guidance on oral health interventions.

India’s next list of essential medicines will be 5 years from now in 2026, will it include fluoride toothpaste as one of the essential medicines as India bears the highest burden of fluorosis in the world.

Source: Click here to read from the WHO official website 

Author: Dr. Divyesh Mundra

Dr. Divyesh Mundra (BDS) completed his Masters in Public Health (MPH) Administration from the School of Health Systems Studies (SHSS),  Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai. He is a healthcare management professional having 5 years of diverse experience across hospital administration, patient advocacy, public health policy, and implementation of public health programs. Divyesh actively tweets on challenges confronting the Indian healthcare system including medical and dental education.


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