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MMS on Essential Medicine List

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Multiple micronutrient supplements (MMS), which have been shown to reduce the risk of small-for-gestational age birth, low birth weight and stillbirth (Haider & Bhutta, 2015), have now been included on the World Health Organization Essential Medicines List (EML) (WHO, 2021). The recommendation to include MMS was due to strong evidence that it is both cost-effective and confers significant benefits compared to iron and folic acid supplementation alone. The Micronutrient Forum (2021), which was one of the first organisations to report on this, heralded the inclusion of MMS as “a huge milestone in making this cost-effective intervention accessible and affordable to pregnant women, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.”

We already know that MMS are effective but why does this development matter? The EML is a coveted collection of medicines that are considered safe and also vital to most effectively support the provision of health services. The recognition of MMS as an essential medicine reinforces its value to governments around the world who will now be encouraged to incorporate this product into national health policies or state-sponsored programmes. This will hopefully support progress to greater coverage of the use of these supplements globally which is especially pertinent for hard-to-reach groups such as pregnant adolescents who have a particularly high risk of nutritional vulnerability (Nguyen et al, 2017). Therefore, designating MMS in this way will hopefully help to improve adolescent nutrition status, helping to safeguard the health of vulnerable populations around the world.

References

Haider, B and Bhutta, Z (2015) Multiple-micronutrient supplementation for women during pregnancy. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26522344/

The Micronutrient Forum (2021) A milestone: MMS now on WHO’s essential medicine list. Micronutrientforum.org. https://micronutrientforum.org/a-milestone-mms-now-on-whos-essential-medicine-list/

Nguyen, PH, Sanghvi, T, Tran, LM, Afsana, K, Mahmud, Z, Aktar, B et al (2017) The nutrition and health risks faced by pregnant adolescents: Insights from a cross-sectional study in Bangladesh. PLoS One. 12(6): e0178878. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5464569/

WHO (2021) World Health Organisation model list of essential medicines 22nd list. Who.int. https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/345533/WHO-MHP-HPS-EML-2021.02-eng.pdf

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MMS on Essential Medicine List. Field Exchange 66, November 2021. p7. www.ennonline.net/fex/66/mmsonessentialmedicinelist

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