Comm Eye Health J. 12 May 2023 Epub ahead of print. Comm Eye Health Vol. 36 No. 118 2023 pp 11. Published online 12 May 2023.

Inclusion of eye medication in national health care systems

Junu Shrestha

Policy & Advocacy Manager: International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, London, UK.

May Ho

Optometry & Primary Care Adviser: The Fred Hollows Foundation, Melbourne, Australia.

Jude Stern

Head of Knowledge Management: IAPB, Sydney, Australia.

Many bottles of different eye drops on a shel
With so many eye medicines available, the WHO model list provides helpful guidance. © Aravind CC BY-NC-SA 4.0
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Advocacy for eye medicines is easier with these helpful resources and guidance.

The World Health Organization (WHO) maintains a model list of essential medicines. The essential medicines include those that satisfy the priority health care needs of a population. The medicines are the most effective, safe, evidence-based available and are comparatively cost-effective. They are intended to be available in health systems at all times. WHO recommends health system in the countries to make those medicines in appropriate quality, form and dosage available, accessible and affordable to everyone in need. This universal access can be possible only when the medicines are included in a country’s essential medicines list and funded by the health financing system of that country.

The WHO model list of essential medicines includes ophthalmic medicines in section: 14.1 Diagnostic agents: Ophthalmic medicines; and 21. Ophthalmological preparations. These sections need to be informed to the policy makers and referred during approaching for the advocacy on universal eye health. The latest list is available here:

The WHO’s Package of Eye Care Interventions (PECI), launched at the World Health Assembly in 2022, is a set of evidence-based eye care interventions and the resources needed for their implementation. PECI – which includes the list of ophthalmic medicines in the WHO essential medicines list – is designed to support policy makers and technical decision makers to integrate eye care into the health care services system of the country. This tool is an important resource when advocating for the inclusion of essential eye medicines in the national essential medicines list and in health financing benefit packages.

When advocating for eye medicines, also refer to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, target 3.8. This target focuses on achieving universal health coverage, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health care services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all. Therefore, without provision for the equitable access to essential medicines for eye conditions, achieving universal eye health coverage is not possible.

Access to essential ophthalmic medicines also aligns with the principle of Integrated People-centred Eye Care (IPEC). The IPEC was adopted by the 73rd World Health Assembly resolution in 2020. To know more about advocating for IPEC, check out IAPB’s IPEC Advocacy to Action Toolkit. The toolkit includes PowerPoint slides, letter and IPEC policy brief templates that can be adapted and used to approach stakeholders for policy dialogues.

The WHO has also produced guidelines on using the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines to update the national essential medicines list. See