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WHO Updates Guidelines on Antibiotic Use

The World Health Organization (WHO) released its model list of essential medicines for 2017, including new advice on which antibiotics to use for common infections and which to preserve for the most serious circumstances.

The updated medicines list adds 30 drugs for adults and 25 for children. It also specifies new uses for nine already-listed products, bringing the total to 433 drugs deemed essential for addressing the most important public health needs.

In a major revision, WHO now groups antibiotics into three categories:

  • Access, which includes amoxicillin, ciprofoxacin, and other drugs that the organization recommends remain available at all times to treat common infections;
  • Watch, which includes carbapenems, quinolones, fluoroquinolones, and other antibiotics with higher resistance potential that the organization recommends using as first- or second-choice treatments for specific infections; and
  • Reserve, which includes fourth and fifth generation cephalosporins, tigecycline, polymyxins. and other drugs that should be considered for use only as a “last resort” when other drugs have failed.

Contact Director of Policy Erin O’Malley at eomalley@essentialhospitals.org or 202.585.0127 with questions.

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About the Author

Michelle Rosenfeld is senior writer/editor at America's Essential Hospitals.