Obesity drugs could soon be classified as essential medicines as the World Health Organization (WHO) considers adding them to its "Essential Medicines List."

On Wednesday, the United Nations agency told Reuters that it is considering adding drugs that combat obesity to its list of "essential" medicines, which guides governments in low- and middle-income countries on the drugs to prioritize for their populations.

Three doctors and a researcher based in the U.S. reportedly requested WHO to consider obesity drugs for the list. The suggestion will be reviewed by a panel of WHO advisers next month. Should they allow it, obesity drugs could be part of the updated list, which is expected to come out in September.

The WHO Model List of Essential Medicines or the Essential Medicines List (EML) contains the drugs and medications considered the most effective and safe to meet specific needs in a health system. It is updated every two years.

One of the obesity drugs up for consideration is Saxenda, which will come off patent soon. This would allow for cheaper generic versions to become available.

Saxenda is manufactured by Novo Nodrisk, the same company responsible for Ozempic and Wegovy. According to Reuters, Wegovy could be recommended for low- and middle-income countries in the future, depending on the outcome of the panel's deliberation.

However, the panel could reject Saxenda and other obesity drugs. They could request or wait for more evidence on the efficacy of the weight loss drugs.

"Obesity is an increasingly important health problem in many countries. Medicines for the treatment of obesity are only one aspect of management, of course, and prevention is also crucial," a WHO spokesperson told the outlet.

"Preventive strategies and sustained efforts at education, gender-focused interventions, must take precedence over the use of obesity drugs, which require a lot more research for safety and effectiveness," added Zulfiqar Bhutta, an obesity expert at the University of Toronto.

As of late, no drug targeting obesity is part of the list. The panel's decision could change that and pave the way for newer and more powerful treatment options to be added to the list in the future.

The WHO's list has made a significant impact in many places around the world. For instance, after HIV drugs got added to the list in 2002, AIDS patients in poorer countries were able to gain access to them.

Weight Loss
Weight loss surgery for obese teens may be the only option to help lower heart disease risk. Photo courtesy of China Photos/ Getty Images