NSAIDs on the World Health Organization’s Model List of Essential Medicines

The World Health Organization (WHO) routinely publishes a list of medicines medical experts believe should be available to everyone. On this list are a huge variety of medicines for many common conditions. On that list are two NSAIDs: aspirin and ibuprofen.

The list itself is a 45 page document, available for download on the WHO website. The list includes about 450 different medicines. The range is astounding, some of the medicines being very specific such as snake venom antivenin and vaccines to certain diseases. Others are more general such as disinfectants and pain relief. The NSAIDs aspirin and ibuprofen are both general medications for pain, fever and inflammation, but they also have other more specific uses.

Nurse with PillsAspirin is suggested as 50 mg to 150 mg suppositories, as well as 100 mg to 500 mg tablets. More specifically, it’s also suggested as a treatment for rheumatic fever, juvenile arthritis and Kawasaki disease.

Ibuprofen is recommended as a 200 mg/5 ml oral liquid or as a table in either 200 mg or 400 mg. It gets a special note not to use in children under 3 months, except to close the ductus arteriosus, a blood vessel that only occurs in unborn children but occasionally doesn’t close on its own after birth. NSAIDs – especially ibuprofen – are used to prompt this blood vessel to close.

According to the list’s explanatory notes, “The core list presents a list of minimum medicine needs for a basic health‐care system, listing the most efficacious, safe and cost‐effective medicines for priority conditions. “  It goes on to explain exactly how the list should be used as a reference document.

Though both NSAIDs carry a risk of side effects, they are also both cheap to produce and their side effects tend to be mild.  Most common short-term side effects are stomach problems such as nausea.  Long-term, consistent use of NSAIDs can result in an increased chance of heart attack and stroke. However, there’s the fact that these medications are effective in treating three common symptoms: pain, inflammation, and fever. This wide range of potential uses definitely earns these two common NSAIDs a place on the WHO’s Model of Essential Medicines list.

Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.

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