Application submitted to WHO to add co-packaged ORS and zinc to the WHO Essential Medicines List

Today (12-Nov-18) was a very big day for ColaLife.

It was on 28-Jan-17, when the penny dropped for me. Why isn’t co-packaged ORS and Zinc on WHO’s Essential Medicines List for Children (EMLc)? ORS is listed and zinc is listed and this has been the case for nearly 15 years but still only about 7% of diarrhoea cases receive the globally recommended treatment of ORS combined with zinc. Listing co-packaged ORS and zinc would, we believe, transform access to the recommended treatment and save thousands and thousands of lives and improve many more.

20 months later I proudly submitted a formal application to WHO on behalf of the Diarrhea Innovations Group (DIG) to specify that ORS and Zinc should be co-packaged. If accepted, this will be considered by the 22nd Expert Committee on the Selection and Use of Essential Medicines which will meet in Geneva from 1 to 5-Apr-19.

Cover page EML Application
Front cover of our application to get co-packaged ORS and zinc on the WHO Essential Medicines List for Children

Our application went in with ten letters of support including one from UNICEF:

UNICEF Clinton Health Access Initiative
IHME Pharmanova Ltd (Zambia)
Abt Associates Ghana Health Service
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Ministry of Health and Social Action, Senegal
The Aga Khan University Johns Hopkins University

[Addendum: subsequent to the submission our application, MSF also send a letter of support advocating strongly that the co-packaging recommendation should be added to both the core and children’s EML and this is what happened. MSF Letter of Support]

ColaLife has again acted in a catalytic way to make this happen. We could not have achieved this alone but we have managed to gather the world’s experts in diarrhoea around this initiative. The first few lines of the application read as follows:

Application_WHO EML_ColaLife Statement

I first presented the idea of submitting an application to WHO to the Diarrhea Innovations Group (DIG) on 12-Sep-17 using telephone conferencing. On 6-Nov-17 our colleague, Rohit Ramchandani, followed up, face-to-face, at a meeting of core members of DIG in Baltimore, USA. DIG confirmed their commitment over the next two days.

We sent a draft workplan to DIG members on 18-Dec-17 and this formed the basis of funding bids to support this work. Unfortunately, all of these bids failed and so members committed to do what they could from their own resources – ColaLife included. The co-chair of DIG, the global health NGO, PATH committed heavily to this effort from the outset. PATH were perfectly placed. They had led a successful application to get Oxygen listed on the WHO Essential Medicines List (EML) the last time the Expert Committee met in 2017. PATH also have global experts in diarrhoea disease. In all 15 people contributed to the application, 7 were PATH staff and 3 were from ColaLife.

The timetable from now is as follows:

Very shortly
We expect our application to be published on the WHO EML website.
Application deadline. Applications open for public comment.
1 to 5-Apr-2019
The meeting of the 22nd WHO Expert Committee on the Selection and Use of Essential Medicines will consider applications.
The decisions of the Expert Committee will be published.

All past and future posts related to this effort can be found here:

Onwards and upwards.