ANTIBIOTICS: HOW CAN BUSINESS HELP KEEP OUR DRUGS WORKING?
We've all heard the reports about antibiotics losing their power through overuse. Yet patients continue to put pressure on doctors to prescribe inappropriately. So how can we solve the problem - and what role does business play?
Three years ago, the World Health Organisation issued a stark warning about our ability to combat infectious diseases.
"Systematic misuse and overuse of [antimicrobial] drugs in human medicine and food production have put every nation at risk," it said in a global action plan aimed at tackling the issue.
"Few replacement products are in the pipeline. Without harmonized and immediate action on a global scale, the world is heading towards a post-antibiotic era in which common infections could once again kill."
A year later, former Goldman Sachs chairman Lord Jim O’Neill was reporting on anti-microbial resistance to the Cameron government. After conducting a two-year review, he set out “10 commandments” for ministers and the pharmaceutical industry.
Today, he looks back with satisfaction at some areas of progress, particularly on early-stage R&D funding, while the extent of research has also outstripped his expectations. But the peer is far from happy with the response to other recommendations.
“When are Big Pharma going to wake up and get ‘enlightened self-interest’,” he wonders. “Why doesn’t the agriculture industry ban the use of ‘last-in-line’ antibiotics such as colistin?”
Lord O'Neill will examine the responsibilities of business on the issue as part of a panel discussing How To Keep Drugs Working In Our Connected World at the International Business Festival on June 26. Alongside him will be Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine director Janet Hemingway and Royal Liverpool Hospital infectious diseases consultant Emmanuel Nsutebu.
And the former economist has a rebuke for government, asking: “Why is it so publicly quiet on AMR at a time when its declared intention is to shape a ‘Global Britain’?
“Where is the progress on what I call ‘Google for Doctors – the rapid, state-of-the-art diagnostics that can help health professionals resist patient pressure to prescribe antibiotics?”
* How To Keep Drugs Working In Our Connected World - Futures Stage, June 26. Lord O'Neill will lead an informative discussion on how academics and businesses are working together to fight infectious disease and boost antimicrobial resistance.