World Health Organization Ranks Antibiotics in Move to Reduce Drug Resistance

Agency recommends penicillin-type drugs as first line of defense

The World Health Organization (WHO) has published a new classification of antibiotics aimed at fighting drug resistance, according to a Reuters report. The agency recommends penicillin-type drugs as the first line of defense and others only for use when absolutely necessary.

The new “essential medicines list” includes 39 antibiotics for 21 common syndromes, categorized into three groups: Access, Watch, and Reserve.

Drugs on the Access list have a lower potential for antibiotic resistance and include the widely used amoxicillin.

The Watch list includes ciprofloxacin, which is commonly prescribed for cystitis and strep throat but is “not that effective,” WHO Assistant Director–General for Health Systems and Innovation Marie-Paule Kieny told reporters. Its use should be “dramatically reduced,” the WHO said.

In the Reserve category, antibiotics such as colistin should be viewed as a last resort, according to the WHO.

“What we need to do as a global community is work out how we pay the company not to market colistin and not to promote it, and to keep it in reserve,” Kieny said.

Other changes to the list include the addition of two oral cancer treatments; a new pill for hepatitis C infection that combines two medications; a more-effective treatment for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV); and new formulations of medications for pediatric tuberculosis.

The WHO also said that Roche’s popular flu drug Tamiflu (oseltamivir) may be removed from the list unless new information supports its use in seasonal and pandemic influenza outbreaks. Oseltamivir was still useful for pregnant women and patients with complications, so its use should be restricted to the most-critical patients, Kieny said.

Source: Reuters; June 6, 2017.