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New antibiotic drive needed to halt resistance

New antibiotic drive needed to halt resistance
27th January 2016

Pharmaceutical businesses at the World Economic Forum has called on governments around the world to provide more of a financial incentive to encourage the development of new antibiotics. 

A declaration signed by more than 80 different companies said the value of antibiotics does not "reflect the benefits they bring to society".

Backed by leading firms including GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Pfizer it urges governments to "support the development and implementation of transformational commercial models that enhance conservation of new and existing antibiotics" by increasing their funding commitments.

In addition, it says there needs to be a "sustainable and predictable" market for new drugs.

It also claims the current approach is not working, despite a significant investment, adding that many firms have already steered away from research in this area.

There have been concerns that resistance to currently used antibiotics could lead to healthcare returning to the Dark Ages, with many infections becoming untreatable and procedures like life-saving transplants becoming impossible.

Despite the unprecedented need for antibiotics, there has not been a new strand of the drug developed for more than 40 years.

A major problem for pharmaceutical companies - and antibiotic resistance - is that developing these classes drugs is not as financially lucrative as others are. As any new classes of antibiotics would only be used when standard ones fail to work, and firms are paid for drugs sold, they are unlikely to get a good return on investment (ROI).

If governments increase the incentive for developing antibiotics, the declaration says businesses will invest in research and improve access around the world.

Lord Jim O’Neill, chairman of the review on antimicrobial resistance, called the declaration a "major step forward" towards creating a global response to the challenges faced by drug resistance. 

He said: "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 itself, cannot afford to "ignore the threat" posed by antibiotic resistance, Lord O'Neill added, highlighting the need to reignite research and development in this area.

Development of a new blood test could also help to limit the damage done by antibiotic resistance. 

Currently being tested by researchers at Duke University, the test could mean that doctors can tell whether antibiotics will be needed for a specific infection, rather than having to made an educated guess.

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