WHO to Consider Adding Obesity Drugs to ‘Essential’ Medicines List


For the first time, the World Health Organization may add anti-obesity pharmaceuticals to the “essential medicines list,” which will be used to guide government purchase decisions in low- and middle-income nations.


According to Reuters, the WHO’s council of experts will consider new requests for pharmaceuticals to be included next month, with an updated essential medicines list coming in September.


Three doctors and a researcher in the United States requested that obesity medications be considered. That applies to the active ingredient liraglutide in Novo Nordisk’s (NOVOb.CO) obesity medicine Saxenda, which is about to go off patent, enabling for cheaper generic equivalents.


However, some public health experts warn against introducing such anti-obesity medicines as a solution to a complex condition that is still not completely understood.

“Obesity is an increasingly important health problem in many countries,” said a WHO spokesperson. “Medicines for the treatment of obesity are only one aspect of management, of course, and prevention is also crucial.”


According to the WHO, approximately 650 million adults worldwide are obese, more than double the rate in 1975, and another 1.3 billion are overweight. 70% of the world’s population lives in low- and middle-income countries.


Inclusion of obesity medications among the WHO’s essential medicines could have a significant impact on that group. According to experts, adding HIV medications to the list in 2002 aided in making them far more readily available to AIDS patients in developing nations.

Saxenda, a once-daily injection that costs $450 per month in the United States and $150 per month in Europe, has been demonstrated to help people lose 5%-10% of their body weight.

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