WHO Ranks Antibiotics in a Bid to Counter Drug Resistance

Health News
2 min read
Hindi Female

The World Health Organisation published a new classification of antibiotics on Tuesday, 6 June that aims to fight drug resistance with penicillin-type drugs recommended as the first line of defence and others only for use when absolutely necessary.

The new ‘essential medicines list (EML)’ includes 39 antibiotics for 21 common syndromes, categorised into three groups – ‘Access’, ‘Watch’ and ‘Reserve’.

Drugs on the ‘Access’ list have lower resistance potential and include the widely-used amoxicillin, which is used commonly to treat pneumonia. These drugs are available easily.

The ‘Watch’ list includes ciprofloxacin, which is commonly prescribed for cystitis, strep throat and respiratory tract infections.

Antibiotics such as colistin and some cephalosporins fall under the ‘Reserve’ category and should be seen as a last resort.

Initially, the new categories would apply to antibiotics that treat 21 most common infections.


Dr Sumanth Gandra from Centre for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy (CDDEP) was part of the Expert Committee that helped shape the revised list. He says that there is a tendency to prescribe more ‘Watch’ category drugs in India.

Physicians should try to limit the prescription of drugs under Watch list. The purpose of this classification is to encourage the use of Access category drugs for the most common infections. 
Dr Sumanth Gandra

According to him, lack of proper diagnostic services are one of the reasons why physicians prefer to prescribe Watch category drugs.

This categorisation should be seen as a guide by all the physicians so that they ensure that the right category of antibiotics are prescribed for the common infections.
Dr Sumanth Gandra

The WHO classification also takes into account the use of antibiotics for animal health, and was developed together with the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Organisation for Animal Health.

Other changes to the list included the addition of two oral cancer treatments, a new pill for hepatitis C that combines two medicines, a more effective treatment for HIV, and new paediatric formulations of medicines for tuberculosis.

(With inputs from Reuters)

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