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MPs call for urgent action on antimicrobial resistance

They call on government and industry to develop new classes of antibiotics

Mark Gould

Monday, 22 October 2018

Tackling antimicrobial resistance (AMR) needs to be firmly established as a "top five policy priority" for the government in order to help prevent the virtual loss of worldwide modern medicine, MPs say.

A report* by the Health and Social Care Committee says that no new classes of antibiotics have been developed for decades. It says investment in basic scientific research is essential but so too is the investment by pharmaceutical companies in further development and bringing products to the market.

MPs say that experts have told them that if action is not taken to address the growing threat of AMR, "modern medicine will be lost". By 2050 it is estimated that AMR will kill 10 million people per year, more than cancer and diabetes combined, the report says.

"Without effective antimicrobial treatments, the risk of death from infectious disease becomes substantially higher, and weighing the risks of complications or death through infection against the benefits of proposed treatment will become increasingly challenging. We are seeing a rise of resistant infections across healthcare and even where these are not currently life threatening, they are causing serious harm for example sexually transmitted infections such as gonorrhoea and chlamydia," the report says.

The MPs say new antibiotics initially are only prescribed very sparingly rather than as a first-line treatment during their patent lives, thereby reducing their profitability compared with other medications. Options to address this market failure include changes to patent law and changes to the ways that pharmaceutical companies are reimbursed for new antimicrobial medicines.

 Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, the chair of the committee says they want action: "In six months we want to see tangible progress on implementing practical policies to reverse the worrying exodus from AMR research and development and both government and industry should play their part in tackling this issue."

*Antimicrobial resistance. A report prepared by the Health and Social Care Committee, 22 October 2018.

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