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Pharma leads global call for action on antimicrobial resistance

Published on 21/01/16 at 09:26am
The declaration was signed at this year's World Economic Forum meeting in Davos

More than 70 leading international pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, as well as industry associations, have come together to call for a partnership with governments to tackle drug resistant infections.

The collaboration was ratified in the form of ‘The Declaration on Combating Antimicrobial Resistance’ launched today at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

The statement sets out for the first time how governments and industry need to work together to support sustained investment in the new products needed to beat the challenges of rising drug resistance.

Some 74 pharma and biotech companies – including industry leaders such as AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, MSD, Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer – as well as diagnostics firms, industry associations and research societies in across 18 countries, have signed up to call for ‘comprehensive action’. The declaration is supported by the UK Government’s Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, led by Lord Jim O’Neill.

The pharma companies are calling for governments to develop ‘new and alternative market structures’ to create better market models for antibiotics. “These mechanisms are needed to provide appropriate incentives… for companies to invest in R&D to overcome the formidable technical and scientific challenges of antibiotic discovery and development.

“These include mechanisms to ensure that, where appropriate, the pricing of antibiotics more adequately reflects the benefits they bring; and novel payment models that reduce the link between the profitability of an antibiotic and the volume sold.”

The document will be updated every two years, and remains open for new signatories. And Government review chair Lord Jim O’Neill called the declaration “a major step forward in establishing a properly global response to the challenges of drug resistance.”

“I’m really impressed that such a wide range of companies have been able to agree on a common set of principles and commitments across these important issues: this is a level of consensus that we have not previously seen from the industry on this topic.

“The pharmaceutical industry, as well as society at large, cannot afford to ignore the threat of antibiotic resistance, so I commend those companies who have signed the declaration for recognising the long-term importance of revitalising R&D in antibiotics, and for their leadership in overcoming the difficult issues of collective action at play here.”

However Professor Colin Garner, chief executive of Antibiotic Research UK, the world’s first charity tackling antibiotic resistance, said funding is still lacking to make the ‘fine words’ in the declaration a reality.

“Clearly this is a major step forward. However it will be many years before any real progress can be made since it takes 15-20 years to develop a new drug and costs hundreds of millions. On the other hand, the problem of antibiotic resistance is here and now and getting worse. We need to convert fine words into an action plan at a global, regional, national and local level. At the moment too many different bodies are making proposals but these require real money to be found which at present is lacking.

“We need to draw lessons from how we tackled infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, where concerted efforts by the pharmaceutical industry, national governments and the World Health Organisation all came together to find new drugs. It will be interesting to see how the pharmaceutical industry deals with public need and their desire to make a profit.”

Lilian Anekwe

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