Bollywood can prove to be instrumental in the fight against a global problem — antimicrobial resistance. When thinking of Bollywood one always conjures up a mental image of glitz and glamour the Indian cinema is known for but a novel UK review is suggesting that Bollywood can be used as a useful medium for advocating about healthcare.
Jim O’Neill, a member of the House of Lords and Commercial Secretary to the UK Treasury, is suggesting one of the biggest movie industries in the world can play a role in a global campaign to handle the problem of antimicrobial resistance. O’Neill made the suggestions in statements which were published by the BMJ on 5th May, 2016. O’Neill is also famous for having coined the term BRICs which refers to the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, and China, and used to worked for Goldman Sachs.
According to O’Neill, the final recommendation of the independent UK review is to enlist the help of the Indian film industry in a global awareness campaign. The campaign would work against tackling the problem of antimicrobial resistance where it has the potential to be an effective medium for delivering the message to the masses at an international level. The final proposal of the review will be published later in May 2016. The review will also propose paying big drug companies a large amount as an incentive to synthesize new and innovative drug channels.
“Big pharma isn’t interested. We have to come up with a system to try to persuade them to be interested. We need a lump sum payment to the pharma company that brings along the drug that we need,” said O’Neill while speaking at the WIRED Health conference in London. “Secondly, one of our recommendations is for a huge global awareness campaign. We’re talking about a major Bollywood movie. India’s challenges around antimicrobial resistance are massive.”
Antimicrobial resistance is a naturally occurring phenomenon in which a microorganism develops resistance against an antimicrobial drug. Originally the antimicrobial drug is effective in treatment against the microbial infection, but the microbe develops immunity with time. Currently many strains of bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites have developed resistance against antimicrobial drugs. It is believed the misuse of antimicrobial drugs has enhanced the growth of drug-resistant pathogens.
In Europe alone about 25,000 people die from antibiotic resistant infections every year. Drug corporations on the other hand are not particularly keen on synthesizing new antibiotic drugs. Since it is a costly process and the new drugs will only be used on a few individuals as a last resort, it cancels out the prospect of generating profits. Even the World Health Organization (WHO) warned if proper action is delayed, the world may soon enter a ‘post-antibiotic era’ where infections could become fatal once again.
In July 2014, the UK Prime Minister David Cameron commissioned the independent review on finding solutions to the global problem of antimicrobial resistance and chose Jim O’Neill to lead it. In addition to the UK government, the review is also funded and hosted by the Wellcome Trust, which deals with economic issues related to antimicrobial resistance. Cameron also announced he wants the UK to use their position as an international leader along with their world class pharmaceutical sector to develop and introduce new drugs into the international market. While commissioning the review Cameron stated that right now resistance to antibiotics is “a very real and worrying threat”.
“If we fail to act, we are looking at an almost unthinkable scenario where antibiotics no longer work and we are cast back into the dark ages of medicine where treatable infections and injuries will kill once again,” said Cameron. “That simply cannot be allowed to happen and I want to see a stronger, more coherent global response, with nations, business and the world of science working together to up our game in the field of antibiotics.”
In addition to O’Neill, who is the main chair of the review, the panel is made up of six other team members. According to O’Neill, in their final draft of the review they will give suggestions on how to raise money for a global campaign through alternative methods, and the approaches will be based on ‘enlightened self-interest’. O’Neill believes if successful, their initiative can bring together both policymakers and the pharma companies, which can result in the development of new antibiotics and it will also create a market demand for the new drugs, if both bodies work together in unison. “If we can crack the pull factor, the push factor will respond,” said O’Neill.
If Bollywood does take part in the campaign, then it would include highlighting a series of problems. The movies would have to highlights issues such as hand washing and reflect on the need to lower use of antibiotics in rural areas. Similarly, the artistic depictions of Bollywood would have to focus on serious problems such as increasing the pay and status of individuals working in the battle against antimicrobial resistance. Furthermore, the global surveillance system of monitoring drug resistance in humans and animals through vaccination would have to be reinvented and improved.
In 2014, the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy (CDDEP) showed that in India the bacterial strain of E coli has developed 92% resistance against Amino-Penicillin in its resistance map. The incredibly high rates of bacterial infections in India seem to be another reason why the review singled out Bollywood.