The independent analysis on antimicrobial resistance, titled “Tackling Drug-Resistant Infections Globally”, was published recently in May 2016. It was carried out by Jim O’Neill, the commercial secretary to the UK Treasury. The review, entailing preventive measures and recommendations to contain the problem, was funded two years ago by the government of the UK and the Wellcome Trust on the orders of Prime Minister, David Cameron.
The main solution proposed by the commercial secretary was the allocation of £1bn as a reward for each new antibiotic produced by drug companies. He believed that by providing financial incentives, the supply of new drugs could be multiplied. “We have proposed a system of market entry rewards of around £1bn per drug for effective treatments,” he wrote in the report.
This initiative was needed in order to overcome the prevalence of increased incidences of anti-microbial resistance i.e., a condition that develops when microbes including bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites evolve and become resistant to certain antimicrobial drugs.
According to Centers for Disease Control (CDC) records, each year at least two million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and more than 23,000 people die each year as a result of these infections.
O’Neill, who is a former economist at Goldman, also proposed certain recommendations to tackle this serious problem. The suggestion for establishing a $2bn (£1.4bn), ‘Global Innovation Fund’, for early-stage research was made. He also highlighted the need for awareness campaigns on a global level, to inform people about the risks associated with the prevalence of antibiotic resistance.
Another recommendation included the promotion of quicker diagnoses to reduce the unnecessary use of antibiotics. O’Neill said that rich countries must take the lead in making changes, such as making the informed prescription of antibiotics mandatory by 2020. The prescriptions would be further cemented by data and testing technologies.
A remarkable point highlighted by the reporter was to combat unnecessary antibiotics use in the agriculture sector by banning those formulas which could turn out to be ‘highly critical’ to human health. He advised that the spread of drug resistance should be made better through improved surveillance techniques. Among other useful points put forward by the analyst, a major one urged promoting the use of vaccines and finding alternatives to drugs, for avoiding antimicrobial resistance.
The economist, whilst pointing out the increased use of antibiotic drugs, said that people should start limiting the use of antibiotics, which upon constant consumption, lead to antimicrobial resistance. “We need to inform in different ways, all over the world, why it’s crucial we stop treating our antibiotics like sweets,” he said.
Moreover, O’Neill emphasized upon taking immediate preventive measures to help contain the massive problem. He said that the problem, if not solved right now, would lead to a regression towards the Dark Ages, when people used to die due to lack of adequate medical facilities and drugs. He insisted upon taking initiatives for stopping the public health problem as soon as possible. “We have made some pretty challenging recommendations which require everybody to get out of the comfort zone, because if we don’t then we aren’t going to be able to solve this problem,” he said.
According to the report, it was estimated that if proper preventive measures were not taken to deal with antimicrobial resistance, the numbers were expected to rise up to 10 million annually by 2050. Whereas British Medical Journal (BMJ), on the other hand, reported about 700,000 people dying each year from drug resistant strains of bacterial infections, tuberculosis, malaria, and HIV.
According to the BMJ, Maureen Baker, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said, “More investment in the research and development of new drugs to tackle emerging diseases is desperately needed, and if offering incentives to pharmaceutical companies helps facilitate this, then it should be encouraged.”
According to a presidential document by the Executive Office of the President back in 2014, President Barack Obama also called the problem of antimicrobial resistance a serious threat to public health and the economy.
George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, UK, welcomed the findings reported by the analyst and called upon finance ministers to come together while working in collaboration with industry leaders and medical experts to come up with a common approach to help fight the global problem of antibiotic resistance. He exclaimed that in case of disappointing results, the economic cost for devising new strategies for tackling antimicrobial resistance would be far more than the expenditure on research facilities directed towards development of new antimicrobial drugs.
Dr Grania Brigden, an independent analyst from the Médecins Sans Frontières organization, said: “This report is an important first step in addressing this broad market failure, it does not go far enough.” According to the BBC News, she added, “Instead, in some cases, the report’s solution is simply to subsidize higher prices rather than trying to overcome them.”
Antimicrobial resistance is the ability of microbes to resist the effects of drugs and includes the germs that are not killed, hence the growth is not stopped. The extent of resistance occurs differently in every individual. Nobody can completely avoid the risk of antibiotic-resistant infections, making their treatment a troublesome job. According to CDC, sometimes it requires costly and even toxic or high potency alternatives.