Saturday, 16 February, 2019

What is antimicrobial resistance and how can it be tackled?

Hancock ‘AMR presents a danger as big as as climate change or warfare Image source World Economic Forum Sikarin Fon Thanachaiary
Anna Jefferson | 27 January, 2019, 10:26

It aims to cut the number of drug-resistant infections by 10 percent by 2025; reduce the use of antibiotics in humans by 15 percent; and prevent at least 15,000 patients from contracting infections as a result of their healthcare each year by 2024.

- What does the Government say?

Resistant infections contribute to the deaths of about 2,000 people each year in the United Kingdom, with at least 20% of antibiotics in primary care inappropriately prescribed, according to official figures. But the number of drug-resistant bloodstream infections have increased by 35% from 2013 to 2017.

Under a new NHS strategy, drug companies will also be paid millions to develop antibiotics that will be rarely used, to combat deadly superbugs that have grown resistant to existing drugs.

Under the plans, the inappropriate use of antibiotics would also be cut by 15%, reducing resistant infections and potentially saving thousands of lives in the UK.

Both the five-year plan and the vision to 2040 were informed by the human and animal health, environment and food chain sectors.

The intention to test a new payment model for antibiotics also suggests the government desire to promote research and development of new antibiotics. At the same time, it discourages the companies from developing new antibiotics, because any new drug would likely be kept in reserve as long current antibiotics remain effective.

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But antibiotics are easily available over the counter in many low- and middle-income countries, which means "unregulated medicines are still available in places such as street markets, with no limits on how they are used", it said.

Dr Chris Doherty, managing director of Alderley Park in Cheshire, the UK's largest single site bio campus, which features a number of businesses working on new antibiotics and diagnostics, said: "It's very welcome news that the market failure in antibiotic drug development is being addressed by the new government strategy".

Under the new model, Hancock explained, the NHS will experiment with buying an antibiotic "service" from drug companies, paying them up-front for access to effective antibiotics.

"We must do everything in our power to ensure we don't return to this".

Now the United Kingdom government pays drug companies according to the volume of NHS sales, but the report argues that this system disincentivises antibiotic research and development and encourages industry to over-market products, which in turn damages AMR stewardship. According to a recent analysis by the Pew Charitable Trusts, only 11 antibiotics that target the most serious antibiotic-resistant pathogens are now in clinical trials.

At the same time, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) confirmed previous year that more than 90,000 people in Britain could die over the next three decades unless action is taken to halt the rise in antibiotic-resistant superbug infections. And because of the economic challenges, many drug makers have been abandoning their antibiotic research programs. Furthermore, he added, they show the potential the industry has to be a future world leader in responsible use of antibiotics.

This will be backed by improved stewardship to minimise the chances of resistant strains emerging.

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