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WHO's essential medicines and AWaRe: recommendations on first- and second-choice antibiotics for empiric treatment of clinical infections

Moja L, Zanichelli V, Mertz D, Gandra S, Cappello B, Cooke GS, Chuki P, Harbarth S, Pulcini C, Mendelson M, Tacconelli E, Ombajo LA, Chitatanga R, Zeng M, Imi M, Elias C, Ashorn P, Marata A, Paulin S, Muller A, Aidara-Kane A, Wi TE, Were WM, Tayler E, Figueras A, Da Silva CP, Van Weezenbeek C, Magrini N, Sharland M, Huttner B, Loeb M.

The WHO Model List of Essential Medicines (EML) prioritizes medicines that have significant global public health value. The EML can also deliver important messages on appropriate medicine use. Since 2017, in response to the growing challenge of antimicrobial resistance, antibiotics on the EML were reviewed and categorized into three groups: Access, Watch and Reserve, leading to a new categorization called AWaRe. These categories were developed taking into account the impact of different antibiotics and classes on antimicrobial resistance, and the implications for their appropriate use. The 2023 AWaRe classification provides empiric guidance on 41 essential antibiotics for over 30 clinical infections targeting both the primary health care and hospital facility setting. A further 257 antibiotics not included on the EML have been allocated an AWaRe group for stewardship and monitoring purposes. This article describes the development of AWaRe focussing on the clinical evidence base that guided the selection of Access, Watch or Reserve antibiotics as first and second choices for each infection. The overarching objective was to offer a tool for optimising the quality of global antibiotic prescribing and reduce inappropriate use by encouraging the use of Access antibiotics (or no antibiotics) where appropriate. This clinical evidence evaluation and subsequent EML recommendations are the basis for the AWaRe antibiotic book and related smartphone applications. By providing guidance on antibiotic prioritization, AWaRe aims to facilitate the revision of national lists of essential medicines, update of national prescribing guidelines and surveillance of antibiotic use. Adherence to AWaRe would extend the effectiveness of current antibiotics while helping countries to expand access to these life-saving medicines for the benefit of current and future patients, health professionals, and the environment.

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