World News

WHO updates critical medicines list for radiological and nuclear emergencies

The World Health Organization (WHO) today updated its list of medicines that should be kept for radiological and nuclear emergencies, as well as recommendations for their proper handling. These supplies include drugs that either prevent or reduce exposure to radiation, or treat injuries after exposure has occurred.

“In radiation emergencies, people can be exposed to doses ranging from minor to life-threatening. Governments must make treatment available to those who need it, said Dr Maria Neira, Acting WHO Assistant Director-General, Population Health Division. “It is very important that governments are prepared to protect public health and respond immediately to emergencies. This includes having a ready supply of life-saving drugs that will reduce risks and heal radiation injuries.”


  • This publication replaces the 2007 WHO report on the development of national stockpiles for radiation emergencies. It includes an update on the stock formulary based on advances in radiation emergency medicine over the past decade.
  • It contains recommendations for the acquisition of drugs that can prevent or reduce the absorption of radionuclides or increase the excretion of radionuclides from the human body.
  • It discusses the basic elements needed to develop, maintain and manage a national stockpile of specific medical supplies that will be required for radiological and nuclear emergencies.
  • The report looks at the role of national health authorities in stockpiling, as well as the role of WHO. As the leading international public health organization with mandates and responsibilities for providing assistance in health emergencies, WHO provides advice and guidance to countries on public health preparedness and response to radiation emergencies, including stockpiling. In health emergencies, WHO can assist in the procurement or sharing of medical supplies between countries.
  • This report includes a brief overview of selected new technologies and formulations, including the potential reuse of products previously approved for other indications.
  • Finally, the publication provides examples of national stockpile building and management practices in selected countries, namely Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation and the United States.

“This updated list of essential medicines will be a vital preparedness tool for our partners to timely identify, procure, stockpile and deliver effective countermeasures to those at risk or affected by these events,” said Dr. Mike Ryan, Executive Director, WHO Health Emergencies Programme.

Typically, a national all-hazard health emergency stockpile includes general supplies and supplies used for any type of emergency, such as personal protective equipment (PPE), trauma kits, fluids, antibiotics, and pain relievers. This publication includes only specific products known and licensed to date for the prevention or treatment of human overexposure.

Radiological and nuclear emergencies can result in exposure to radiation doses high enough to cause severe health effects or even death. It is therefore essential that governments respond quickly to such threats. However, many countries still lack the basic elements of preparedness for radiation emergencies, according to the annual report submitted to the WHO Secretariat.

Possible scenarios considered in the publication include radiation or nuclear emergencies at nuclear power plants, medical or research facilities, accidents during the transport of radioactive materials, and the deliberate use of radioactive materials with malicious intent.

Pharmaceutical Stock Components for Radiation Emergencies

This publication focuses on pharmaceuticals for the treatment of radiation exposure, and the management and management of such stocks. A typical radiation hazard emergency supply would include the following medicines:

  • Stable iodine, given to prevent or reduce the effects of radioactive iodine on the thyroid;
  • chelating sand-decorating agents (Prussian blue, used to remove radioactive cesium from the body and calcium-/zinc-DTPA, used to treat internal contamination with transuranium radionuclides);
  • Cytokines are used to mitigate bone marrow damage in acute radiation syndrome (ARS); and
  • Other medicines used to treat vomiting, diarrhea, and infections.

New therapies and countermeasures, also discussed in the report, provide insight into future medical countermeasures that could be used to treat overexposed patients. In particular, research identifying new cellular and molecular pathways and routes of drug administration could be used for new therapies and new products for use during a radiation emergency.

Emergency preparedness, response and recovery save lives

Coordination of local, national and international responses is essential for a coherent response to radiation emergencies. As the agency responsible for leading global health activities, WHO provides advice and access to medicines and health services for countries that are developing national capacity to prepare for and respond to radiation emergencies.

Additional Information

WHO Global Expert Network, REMPAN

WHO’s global expert network, REMPAN (Radiological Emergency Medical Preparedness and Assistance Network), is an important asset for the Organization in carrying out its work to provide technical advice and tools for response, implement capacity building activities through education and training, and promoting international cooperation and information exchange between network members and the professional community in the field of radiation accident medicine.

WHO is a member of ICARNE, the Interagency Committee on Radiation and Nuclear Emergencies, which provides a coordination mechanism between 20 international organizations with respective mandates. IACRNE members develop, support and co-sponsor the International Organizations’ Joint Radiation Emergency Management Plan (JPlan 2017). JPlan describes a common understanding of each organization’s roles in preparedness, response and recovery.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button