WHO, UN and Global Stroke Policies Update

Hypertension ‘polypill ‘on the List of Essential Medicines

On July 9th the WHO added fixed-dose combination anti-hypertension medication to its list of essential medicines.  WSO has welcomed the announcement as a watershed moment, which has the potential to address the single biggest risk factor for stroke worldwide. In a WSO jointly authored letter, published in The Lancet on 15th July, WSO President Michael Brainin (alongside the American Heart Association, European Society of Hypertension, International Society of Hypertension, Lancet Commission on Hypertension Group, Latin American Society of Hypertension, Resolve to Save Lives, World Heart Federation and the World Hypertension League) expressed support for the inclusion of single pill combination treatment as a way to improve access to effective treatment for hypertension; particularly in low- and middle-income countries where rates of hypertension, are on the increase and where the proportion of people receiving treatment is low.Currently 1.4 billion people worldwide have hypertension (classified as measurements equal or over 130/80) but only 1 in 7 have their blood pressure effective treated and controlled.

Controlling hypertension often requires more than one medication which can create challenges for healthcare systems and for patients. Combining generic treatments is a safe and affordable way to overcome these; firstly, by making procurement and prescribing easier in low resource settings and secondly, by making it easier for patients to keep track of and comply with their medication ‘regime’.

WSO President Michael Brainin indicated that the decision by WHO may offer further encouragement to WSO's emergent stroke prevention strategy. ‘The decision by WHO to include a hypertension ‘polypill’ in their essential medicines list, is not only a massive boost to our global effort to prevent stroke, but potentially paves the way for the future inclusion of single pill combinations to address a number of stroke risk factors. WSO is currently working with an international network of researchers to explore the potential for such treatments alongside development of community healthworker networks and mobile technologies as an integrated strategy to improve diagnosis of clinical stroke risk factors and to improve access to preventive treatment. While we will continue to push that work forward, it is clear that it is now time for governments around the world to take action and to start putting in place policies and systems that will put single-pill combinations in the hands of patients who need them.’