Sixteen drugs added to the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines

May 11, 2015

Jeff Gordon and Lawrence Shulman, MD in Rwanda

Jeff Gordon (left) and Lawrence Shulman, MD (right) talk with a resident in Rwanda

Sixteen cancer drugs have been added to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) List of Essential Medicines. Dana-Farber’s Lawrence Shulman, MD, chief of staff and director of the hospital’s Center for Global Cancer Medicine, led the effort along with Julie Torode, Deputy CEO of the Union for International Cancer Control in Geneva, Switzerland.

During the past year, Shulman coordinated the efforts of more than 90 cancer experts from around the world, and led the process of determining which cancer drugs should be recommended for inclusion. Multiple treatment protocols were authored or peer-reviewed by Dana-Farber oncologists.

“Without drastic improvements in access to essential cancer medicines, poor countries will continue to be ill-equipped to care for their cancer patients,” said Shulman. “Many diseases can be readily cured with affordable chemotherapy, and making these available to more patients around the world has to be one of our visions.”

With the support of WHO representative Nicola Magrini, MD, Shulman presented the group’s case for new drugs derived from disease-based protocols for 29 malignancies (22 adult and seven pediatric) at a Working Group held at WHO Headquarters in November 2014. A full list of the approved essential medicines can be viewed here.

"It has been a privilege to work alongside colleagues from around the world, and many here at Dana-Farber, on expanding the WHO’s list of cancer drugs,” said Shulman. “It is our hope that these recommendations will be valuable and impactful and will facilitate countries’ abilities to make essential cancer medicines available to their people.”

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