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Pigs and bugs

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I do not represent the animal health side of the pharmaceutical industry, but I have learnt a few things from my friends in that sector. Animals also have a right to good health. Whether they are pigs or pets. As a consumer and food-lover, I have come to realise that assuring the wellbeing of animals results in better produce. One essential element in this process is to have access to medicines and vaccines that are tailored for animals.

EFPIA and my member companies are engaged in re-starting the development of new antibiotics to combat antimicrobial resistance – a “time-bomb” according the European Commission. We are also seeking to promote the concept of a global “charter”, in order to ensure that new antibiotics will be administered in a controlled manner, while available, and at affordable prices. It’s by no means easy to square this particular circle, and it’s certainly something pharma cannot do alone. In partnership with governments, WHO, MSF, Medicines Patent Pool, and others, we must together develop a new approach.

This must also include de-linking revenues from selling, at least outside the richer countries in Europe and North America. What I mean, is that pharma companies should not have an incentive to sell as much as they can. Somehow they have to be rewarded differently, such as through an advanced purchase commitment (such as real or virtual stock-piling), or with transferable rights, reflecting the voucher system that is prevalent in the US.

Back to the animals, though. We clearly need new antibiotics. And those should also enjoy controlled use. In Europe we are already very strict on the use of antibiotics in livestock. I am not an expert, so I do not know if we need to go further in restricting the use of antibiotics in animals. But I do know that we need to separate the development pathways for new antibiotics. Pharma companies and publicly-funded researchers should agree to dedicate the development of some new antibiotics for human use alone, preventing their use in animals, where the control is much more lax around the world.

This idea has just come up in the European Parliament as it discusses with Member States a revision of the veterinary medicines legislation. EFPIA supports the idea of letting EMA designate certain new antibiotics solely for human use. But as this is a global problem, it will not be enough. We are therefore calling for a global charter that will apply to all researchers worldwide. After all, the bugs, and their resistance-genes, travel with all of us, all over the world. Globalisation has many meanings.

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EFPIA Director General

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