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WHO updates list of essential medicines to include heart ‘polypills,’ MS treatments but not weight-loss drugs



The World Health Organization updated its guidelines for essential medicines Wednesday to include drugs to treat multiple sclerosis, heart conditions, cancer and more. But obesity medications were not added to the list, despite requests this year from researchers in the United States.

During its meeting in April, WHO’s review committee considered over 100 therapeutics before recommending 24 medicines for adults and 12 for children to be added to the Model Lists of Essential Medicines (EML) and Essential Medicines for Children (EMLc).

The additions bring the total number of medications on the EML and EMLc to 502 and 361, respectively.

Updated every two years, the lists are registers of medications that WHO considers to be minimum requirements for every health care system to have available. The lists are internationally recognized guides for countries’ health systems, helping them prioritize medications that are effective and affordable. Each addition, according to WHO, is considered “essential to address key public health needs.”


WHO advisers to consider whether obesity medication should be added to Essential Medicines List


“Essential medicines are those that satisfy the priority health care needs of a population,” the report says. “They are intended to be available in functioning health systems at all times, in appropriate dosage forms, of assured quality and at prices individuals and health systems can afford.”

New on the 2023 list are medications to treat multiple sclerosis, or MS, a chronic, often fatal nervous system disease that affects 2.8 million people around the world, according to WHO. The new guidelines include three medications to slow its progression.

One of them, rituximab, is normally used to treat some cancers and autoimmune diseases, but the WHO guidelines recommend off-label use for MS due to “strong evidence of its efficacy and safety.”

“Given the evidence base and the increased affordability of rituximab … it has been prioritized over on-label alternatives as an essential medicine to treat relapsing-remitting and progressive MS,” said Dr. Benedikt Huttner, the EML team lead, in a statement.

The guidelines also recommend, for the first time, “polypills” to treat heart disease and other cardiovascular issues. The term refers to a combination of medicines to treat heart issues: medication to lower blood pressure, a statin to lower cholesterol, a medication to make the heart beat with less force and sometimes aspirin.

A growing body of research shows that polypills can be an inexpensive, effective way to reduce the risk of heart problems, with studies indicating that they can cut the risk of cardiovascular problems by almost 40%. But even though heart complications like heart disease and heart attacks kill 18 million people each year, only a few companies manufacture polypills, and few people take them.

Combination ‘polypills’ can help solve world’s heart problems, experts say, if more people can get them


The inclusion of polypills on the WHO guidelines could change that. Some health officials believe that their place on the Essential Medicines List would encourage governments and insurance companies to recommend them, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.

“These treatments could have a very large public health impact globally, without jeopardizing the health budgets of low- and middle-income countries,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s director-general, in a news briefing Wednesday.

WHO rejected the inclusion of several patented cancer medications due to concerns over their high price, but the guidelines did add two cancer treatments: a medication for Kaposi sarcoma, a cancer that causes lesions in the skin and gastrointestinal tract, and cancer treatments that improve white blood cell production and reduce some cancer medicines’ toxic effects on the bone marrow.

Other additions include ceftolozane and tazobactam, a combination antibiotic used to treat multidrug-resistant bacteria, and monoclonal antibodies against Ebola.

Notably absent from the Essential Medicines List are compounds called GLP-1 receptor agonists, commonly used in some diabetes and obesity medications like Ozempic and Wegovy.

A request to add GLP-1 receptor agonists to the list came in March from four researchers at Yale University, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the University of California, San Francisco. However, the WHO committee rejected the application, citing the compounds’ “uncertain long-term clinical benefit and safety in this patient population.”

Amid celebrity promotion and their rising popularity for weight loss, some medications containing GLP-1 receptor agonists have been in shortage in the United States.

Shortages have also affected several essential medications on WHO’s list, including the hormone insulin for diabetes control and the antibiotic bicillin, a long-acting injectable form of penicillin.

“Rising prices and supply chain disruptions mean that all countries now face increasing problems in ensuring consistent and equitable access to many quality-assured essential medicines,” Ghebreyesus said. “WHO is committed to supporting all countries to overcome these obstacles to increase equitable access to essential medicines.”



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The Key Role of Trustworthy Babysitters in Balancing Work and Family Life




Are you a busy parent in constant pursuit of the elusive work-life balance? We know firsthand how overwhelming and challenging it can be to juggle professional commitments while still having quality time with your children.

That’s why we’re here to discuss an essential ingredient that unlocks the secret to harmony: trustworthy babysitters.

What Characteristics Parents Should Look for When Choosing a Babysitter?

Parents should look for a few key characteristics when choosing a babysitter. A good babysitter should be patient, responsible, and reliable. They should also be comfortable with children and have prior experience caring for them.

Besides, the babysitter must be able to communicate effectively and follow directions well. The babysitter should be someone the parents can trust to care for their children in their absence.


Strategies for Parents to Establish Reasonable Anticipations

As a parent, finding babysitters you can trust to care for your children is vital. However, it is also important to establish reasonable expectations for your babysitters.

Some tips for establishing reasonable expectations for babysitters include:

  1. Set clear expectations: Sit down with your babysitter to discuss bedtime routines, dietary preferences, and any necessary medications.
  2. Allow flexibility: While clarity is vital, also provide room for your babysitter to use their judgment and feel comfortable in their role.
  3. Trust their expertise: Once expectations are set, trust your babysitter’s judgment as a professional caregiver to avoid undermining their authority and creating discomfort in their role.

Determining a Fair Payment Plan

Determine your babysitting budget, factoring in your income and family size, while researching local rates. Account for the babysitter’s experience and qualifications, giving preference to those recommended by trusted sources.

Engage in open negotiations with your chosen babysitter. This aims to find a mutually agreeable arrangement that accommodates both your budget and their needs.

Tips on Finding Trustworthy and Compassionate Caregivers

When seeking a caregiver for your child, to ensure you find the right fit:

  • Seek recommendations from trusted sources such as friends, family, and neighbours who may have suggestions for caregivers in your area.
  • Conduct online research to review feedback and check references to gauge candidates’ qualifications and experience.
  • Request references and contact details from the caregivers’ previous employers or families they have worked with.
  • Trust your instincts and ensure you feel at ease with the caregiver, ensuring they are someone you can entrust with your child’s well-being.


Being able to trust your babysitter means you can have peace of mind knowing your child is safe and cared for.

Spending some time researching online reviews or asking friends and family for recommendations will help you find the perfect fit so you can feel more at ease while juggling work commitments in today’s hectic world.

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Facility-wide COVID-19 outbreak at Bethammi Nursing Home



THUNDER BAY — St. Joseph’s Care Group and the Thunder Bay District Health Unit have declared a facility-wide COVID-19 outbreak at Bethammi Nursing Home, part of the St. Joseph’s Heritage complex on Carrie Street near Red River Road.

The respiratory outbreak at the 112-bed facility was declared effective Sept. 15 but only announced publicly on Monday.

No details were provided with regard to the number of people affected to date.

Restrictions are now in place for admissions, transfers, discharges, social activities and visitation until further notice.




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Alberta COVID hospitalizations up 73% since July: health minister



Three weeks after the start of the school year, Alberta’s health minister provided an update on the spread of airborne viruses in the province.

Adriana LaGrange also said more information about flu and next-generation COVID-19 vaccines will soon be released.

“Now that we will be spending more time indoors, we need to make doubly sure we are following proper hygiene protocols like handwashing and staying home when sick,” LaGrange said. “It also means respecting those who choose to wear a mask.”


Global News previously reported that influenza vaccines will be available on Oct. 16 with the new Moderna vaccine formulated to target the XBB.1.5 variant likely to be available at around the same time. On Sept. 12, Health Canada approved the use of the Moderna vaccine.

“More information on immunizations against respiratory viruses including influenza and COVID-19 will be available shortly,” the health minister said.

LaGrange said there have been 28 cases of influenza and five lab-confirmed cases of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) since Aug. 28.

“This is consistent activity for this time of the year,” the health minister said in a statement.

The end of August or the beginning of September has typically marked the beginning of flu season for provincial health authorities.

LaGrange also provided an update on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in the province.

From Aug. 28 to Sept. 8, there were a total 92 new hospitalizations and three ICU admissions, bringing the total to 417 in hospital and seven in ICU, a 73 per cent increase of COVID hospitalizations from the last reported info.

On July 24 – the last update to the province’s COVID data dashboard – there were only 242 in hospital.

“Sadly, five Albertans died during that period due to COVID-19,” LaGrange said.

LaGrange said the reporting dashboard is being refreshed to include RSV, influenza and COVID-19 data, work that was originally expected to be completed on Aug. 30. The latest data on the province’s influenza statistics dashboard is dated July 22.

“This work is currently underway and will be available in the coming weeks,” LaGrange said.

She said data for the dates between July 24 and Aug. 27 will be available when the new dashboard goes online.

Amid more hospitals continent-wide reinstating masking requirements in the face of increased hospitalizations, the health minister made no mention of any such moves for Alberta hospitals. Acute care COVID-19 outbreaks in Alberta jumped from Sept. 5 to 12, with 146 per cent more healthcare workers and 55 per cent more patients testing positive for COVID.

LaGrange stressed the “collective responsibility” to prevent the spread of airborne viruses like COVID and influenza.

“As a mother and grandmother, I understand the anxiety that comes with sending your children back to school. I want to reassure you that Alberta’s government has the health and well-being of all young Albertans top of mind,” the health minister said.

–with files from Meghan Cobb, Global News



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