Landmark action by WHO follows global advocacy campaign led by GHTC and partners
The Global Health Technologies Coalition (GHTC) welcomes the publication today by the World Health Organization (WHO) of its first Essential Diagnostics List (EDL), a critical new tool to help guide governments on the vital diagnostic tests that should be made available through health care systems.Although diagnostics are a proven essential component of delivering quality care worldwide, prior to today WHO did not maintain a list of recommended diagnostic tools like it does for medicines through its Model List of Essential Medicines (EML).
This action by WHO follows a global advocacy campaign, led by researchers at McGill University, University of Michigan, GHTC, FIND, and others, urging WHO to establish an EDL to help address global gaps in access to diagnostic tools and guide countries in procuring diagnostics needed to enable safe and appropriate use of essential medicines. Diagnostic tools are vital to ensuring patients receive effective treatment, enabling a rapid response to disease outbreaks, and reducing overuse of antibiotics to stem the rise of antimicrobial resistance. However, today many patients in low- and middle-income countries are unable to access appropriate diagnostic services.
“No person should suffer or die because they cannot access appropriate diagnostic services,” said Jamie Bay Nishi, director of GHTC. “Yet, today this happens far too often. We applaud WHO for launching the first Essential Diagnostic List. It is a vital tool that will improve diagnostic access by helping countries more efficiently prioritize diagnostic needs and signaling to developers a demand for safe, affordable, quality diagnostic products.”
The list released today by WHO focuses on in vitro diagnostics—tests that use human samples like blood, urine, or cells. It includes 113 products, 58 of which are intended for diagnosis of a range of common conditions, serving as an essential toolkit to enable appropriate screening and management of patients. The remaining 55 tests are intended to diagnose WHO “priority” diseases such as tuberculosis, HIV, malaria, and hepatitis B and C. Like the EML—which has been in operation for four decades—the EDL is intended to guide countries as they develop or update their own essential diagnostic lists.
The EDL was developed under the guidance of WHO’s newly established Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on In-Vitro Diagnostics. The agency has announced plans to continue to update the list on a regular basis and expand it significantly over the next few years to address other health areas.
“WHO took an important step forward this week in launching the first Essential Diagnostic List,” said Nishi. “But as WHO itself noted, this is just the first step. It is important that WHO follow through on its pledge to expand the list to incorporate other vital health areas like antimicrobial resistance, emerging infectious diseases, and neglected tropical diseases. It’s also critical that WHO continue to explore ways to use future iterations of the EDL to identify unmet diagnostic needs and spur development of critically-needed tools that do not yet exist.