Global threat of antibiotic resistance

Growing numbers of bacterial and viral infections are resistant to antimicrobial drugs, but no new classes of antibiotics have come on the market for more than 25 years.

Around 25,000 people already die each year from infections resistant to antibiotic drugs in Europe alone and the lack of new drugs which are capable of fighting bacteria has been described by the World Health Organization as one of the most significant global risks facing modern medicine.

The Prime Minister wants Britain to lead the way, using its international leadership and world-class pharmaceutical sector – which employs thousands of highly-skilled experts and is a key part of the country’s economy – to battle against antimicrobial resistant infections and bring new drugs to the world market.

Mr Cameron has commissioned a wide reaching independent review, led by the internationally renowned economist Jim O’Neill and co-funded and hosted by the world’s second largest medical research foundation, the Wellcome Trust, to explore the economic issues surrounding antimicrobial resistance.

The review will set out a plan for encouraging and accelerating the discovery and development of new generations of antibiotics, and will examine:

•The development, use and regulatory environment of antimicrobials, especially antibiotics, and explore how to make investment in new antibiotics more attractive to pharmaceutical companies and other funding bodies.
•The balance between effective and sustainable incentives for investment, and the need to conserve antimicrobial drugs so they remain effective for as long as possible.
•How governments and other funders can stimulate investment in new antimicrobials and timeframes and mechanisms for implementation.
•Increasing international cooperation and support for action by the international community, including much closer working with low and middle income countries on this issue.
Jim O’Neill will work independently of government, and will have full freedom to approach the issues and the evidence as he sees fit. He will work with international experts covering all aspects of the AMR pipeline and associated economic issues to identify a range of proposals that can form the basis of a new, strengthened global effort.

The full scale of the economic burden of drug resistant infections – and the cost of a failure to take concerted action to address it – is not yet fully understood.

The announcement of the review comes a week after antimicrobial resistance was chosen by the public as the winner of the £10m Longitude Prize, with a focus on creating a cheap, accurate and easy-to-use test for bacterial infections that will allow doctors and nurses to better target antibiotics and prevent over-use.

The Prime Minister, David Cameron, said:
“Resistance to antibiotics is now a very real and worrying threat, as bacteria mutate to become immune to their effects.

“With some 25,000 people a year already dying from infections resistant to antibiotic drugs in Europe alone, this is not some distant threat but something happening right now.

“If we fail to act, we are looking at an almost unthinkable scenario where antibiotics no longer work and we are cast back into the dark ages of medicine where treatable infections and injuries will kill once again.

“That simply cannot be allowed to happened and I want to see a stronger, more coherent global response, with nations, business and the world of science working together to up our game in the field of antibiotics.

“Following discussions at the G7 last month, I have asked the economist Jim O’Neill to work with a panel of experts and report back to me and other world leaders on how we can accelerate the discovery and development of a new generation of antibiotics.”
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