An application to include whole blood and red cells on the World Health Organization’s “Model List of Essential Medicines” has been submitted and will likely be discussed at an expert committee meeting in April 2013. The current list contains no labile blood components, despite the important and often life-saving role of red cell transfusion in multiple areas of healthcare. In a perspective published in The New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Harvey G. Klein discusses the evidence supporting the definition of blood as an “essential medicine” and addresses concerns about adding blood to the WHO list. Klein notes that red cell transfusion has been shown to have a therapeutic index greater than many common medications, and that a reliable supply of safe blood is essential in developed as well as developing countries. He suggests that the inclusion of blood on the list would raise public awareness of blood’s role in public health and encourage governments to provide additional support for a safe, affordable and sufficient blood supply. Several countries, including the United States, Canada, Germany, Japan and Australia, already regulate blood products as biologic medicines. The application to include blood on the list has been posted on the WHO website for public comment.
1. Klein HG. Should Blood Be an Essential Medicine. New England Journal of Medicine 2013;368: 199-201.