UN tackling the crisis of antibiotic resistance
- At the United Nations Headquarters in New York on Wednesday, the 193 countries of the UN will sign a declaration to tackle the increasing threat of antimicrobial resistance. The meeting is convened by the UN General Assembly and supported by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). It is only the fourth of its type in the history of the UN to focus on health.
- Developing new antibiotics and dealing with antimicrobial resistance is a major challenge for the pharma industry, as there has been little incentive to develop new low cost antibiotics, or create antibiotics of last resort that will have very limited markets.
- Thirteen leading pharma companies have presented a roadmap to the UN to lay out their four commitments as an industry to tackle the AMR issue. The objectives are to: reduce the environmental impact of antibiotic production; ensure that antibiotics are only used by the right patients; improve access to antibiotics, vaccines and diagnostics; and explore public-private collaborations.
Jim O'Neill, the Brit who was once most widely known for coming up with the term BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) when he was chief economist at Goldman Sachs, is now making a name as the driving force behind the fight against antimicrobial resistance, as reported in UK's Independent. In December 2014, he published his UK Government-sponsored review on antimicrobial resistance (AMR). This declared that "AMR threatens many of the most important medical advances we have made."
Losing access to antibiotics could take medicine back to a pre-antibiotic era, where surgery was risky and people died from currently-treatable bacterial infections. According to the UK government's 2014 Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, led by O'Neill, deaths due to antimicrobial resistance could reach 10 million a year by 2050, resulting in an economic loss of over $100 trillion.
There has only been one new class of antibiotics since 1980. The suggestion from a UN-convened panel last week to promote development was de-linking of R&D costs and final drug prices and called for public-private partnerships and greater use of compulsory licenses.
BIO and pharma companies have criticized this approach. This week, 13 leading pharma companies, including Allergan, AstraZeneca, Roche, Merck, Novartis and Pfizer, have come up with an alternative approach through their roadmap.
"We are committed to working to reduce the development of antimicrobial resistance, improve access to high-quality antibiotics, vaccines, and diagnostics, invest in R&D, and collaborate with governments and stakeholders to sustain those investments," said the companies in a statement from the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA).
The UN declaration, signed by all UN member states, will pledge $790 million of investment, and the signatories will develop surveillance and regulatory systems for the sales and use of antibiotics in humans and animals; encourage development of innovative antibiotics; and educate healthcare professionals and the public on appropriate use of antibiotics. While this falls short of the $2 billion that O'Neill called for following the UK government-commissioned review, it at least calls attention to this potentially healthcare-changing problem.
The European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ESCMID) has sent an open letter to the UN ahead of the meeting, welcoming the decision and offering support.
Measures suggested by ESCMID echo those of the UN and the industry, and include improving resistance surveillance, regulating the appropriate use of antimicrobial drugs in medicine and farming, educating the public, and providing incentives for R&D in medicines, diagnostics and other interventions.
Antibiotics have long been used as growth promoters in animals raised for food, so the animal health industry will also need to be involved, through compliance with new regulations set to be put in place January 1, 2017.
- International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations Leading Pharmaceutical Companies Present Industry Roadmap to Combat Antimicrobial Resistance
- High-level Meeting on Antimicrobial Resistance General Assembly of the United Nations
- Independent Antibiotics: World leaders sign groundbreaking UN declaration to tackle 'biggest global health threat'
- Life Science Leader The Uphill Battle Toward Innovation For Antibiotic Resistance
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