An Urgent need for Partnership: UK Government’s Action on Anti-Microbial Resistance Paving a Positive Path Forwards
In a recent EFPIA newsletter, we shared an interesting and very timely announcement from UK Prime Minister David Cameron regarding Anti-Microbial Resistance. The Prime Minister made headlines with his call for global action to tackle the growing threat of antibiotics. The media frenzy following the Prime Minister’s announcement has since died down but this is a topic that we can’t afford to lose focus on.
EFPIA’s member association ABPI welcomed the Prime Minister’s call for global action to tackle the development of new antibiotics – and I would like to echo this. The R&D-based pharmaceutical continues to invest millions of euros in the development of new antibiotics and considerable expertise remains in the industry. However, the true value to society of these antibiotics is not always recognised or reflected in their price. In the ABPI statement welcoming the Prime Minister’s announcement, Dr. Louise Leong, ABPI’s Director of Research and Development Policy noted, “Confronted with the high costs and long lead times of developing new medicines, the pharmaceutical industry and governments need to work in partnership as a matter of urgency to create aligned incentives to encourage the development of new antibiotics.”
Already, we are seeing efforts to overcome the public-private bridge, as organisations are pooling knowledge and providing some “push” money to support AMR-related research. I can point to EFPIA’s own Innovative Medicines Initiative as an example. A public-private partnership between the European Commission and EFPIA, IMI has a number of projects devoted to anti-microbial resistance through its New Drugs for Bad Bugs (ND4BB) programme. These include COMBACTE (Combatting Bacterial Resistance in Europe) and TRANSLOCATION (Molecular basis of the bacterial cell wall permeability). I hope to see further progress made under the second phase of the Innovative Medicines Initiative, which was launched just last week with an even bigger budget (3.3 billion) than the first phase.
Research alone is not enough, however. Other fundamental areas need to be addressed if we are to ensure that the public gains from the results such research delivers. For instance, the pharmaceutical industry is not supposed to promote and have big volume sales from new antibiotics to be kept in reserve. What we need, then, are “pull” incentives to bring all investors and researchers possible into the fold. There is also need for a global model for controlled and equitable access, at affordable prices. There is no point in developing these much-needed new antibiotics if they can’t reach the people they are meant to help. Another IMI project is in the works on this – however, such schemes still need to be fostered and promoted more widely after their inception.
In the UK, Mr. Cameron has now commissioned an independent review to explore the economic issues surrounding AMR. Though there is undoubtedly still progress to be made, I am pleased to see a government body taking action to explore the hurdles we face as we tackle the threat of AMR. There is a real need for political leadership here. The pharmaceutical industry alone cannot develop and manage a global access and stewardship scheme. Mr. Cameron’s move is another step towards bringing the public and private sectors together in what needs to be a collaborative fight, if we are going to win it. I often talk about partnership. This is maybe the best case so far, and also the most urgent one.1