Antibiotics image

Antibiotic resistance could kill 10 million a year

pharmafile | December 11, 2014 | News story | Research and Development, Sales and Marketing Antibiotics, Cancer, KPMG, Merck, david cameron, rand 

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria will kill an extra 10 million people a year by 2050 if the problem is not tackled soon, according to a new government report.

The study also found that the costs of a failure to find new drugs to tackle such diseases could be as high as $100 trillion a year. The researchers note, however, that their results “should be understood as an underestimate” as they do not take into account increased healthcare costs and wider indirect social costs.

Yael Selfin, one of the report’s authors, says: “Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) represents a genuine cost to society and the potential loss from not addressing the AMR challenge cannot be seen as a potential economic loss in isolation.

“The rise in AMR and its capacity to cause real damage to society, and to the world economy, should encourage the development of new antibiotics, and increase efforts to ensure future social and economic impacts are minimised.”

Currently, drug-resistant infections are thought to be responsible for around 700,000 deaths every year. If this figure rose to 10 million, AMR would be responsible for more deaths worldwide than cancer.

E. coli, tuberculosis and malaria were predicted to be the diseases that would have the biggest impact in a post-antibiotic world.

Developing countries in Asia and Africa would be hit the hardest, with the death rate in these regions estimated at over four million, compared to rates between 300,000 and 400,000 in Europe and the Americas and 22,000 in Oceania.

The study was commissioned by UK prime minister David Cameron in July as part of the government’s five year review into AMR. This review is based on the recommendations of chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies, who has warned that “there are few public health issues of greater importance than AMR”.

The report was led by economist Jim O’Neill with research from RAND Europe and KPMG.

In April the World Health Organization issued stark warnings about the threat of AMR, saying: “Without urgent, co-ordinated action by many stakeholders, the world is headed for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill.”

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, GSK’s president of R&D Patrick Vallance explained several of the reasons behind this: “One, it’s very difficult scientifically, so that adds a lot of cost to your discovery. Two, it’s actually quite difficult to do the trials in antibiotics, and the third one is the economic model.

“If I put myself back in the position of being a practicing clinician, what do I really want? I want antibiotics available that I shouldn’t use unless I have to, and that’s a really nasty model for industry. You make something, you spend years doing it, and the right thing very often for society and medicine is to stick it on the shelf and say ‘thank you, I’m glad I’ve got that but I’m not going to use it.’

“I think there needs to be something that de-links the amount of return you get from the volume of use, and that’s really the key economic challenge that needs to be looked at carefully.”

Pharma companies are beginning to show an increased interest in returning to the once-neglected area however, with progress being made in new drugs to tackle resistant bacteria.

Earlier this month Merck purchased  antibiotics specialist Cubist, whose biggest product Cubicin is used to treat resistant bacteria: and the University of Pittsburgh Center for Vaccine Research recently announced the results of a trial showing that its engineered cationic antimicrobial peptides (eCAPs) were “far more effective than traditional antibiotics” at tackling drug-resistant bacteria.

George Underwood

Related Content

AstraZeneca and MSD’s Lynparza receives NICE positive recommendation as a cancer maintenance treatment

UK-based pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca has announced that the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence …


Innate Pharma announces drug researched with Sanofi receives FDA Fast Track Designation

Innate Pharma has announced that the drug jointly researched between itself and Sanofi has received US …


GRAIL and University of Oxford showcase first prospective study results for multi-cancer early detection test

US-based healthcare company GRAIL and the University of Oxford, UK, have announced encouraging first prospective …

Latest content