We must work together to fight antimicrobial resistance

Written by Richard Bergström on 9 February 2016 in Thought Leader
Thought Leader

A broad coalition, delivering sustainable solutions, is key to tackling the scourge of AMR, argues Richard Bergström.

In 2014, the World Health Organisation announced that antimicrobial resistance (AMR) - and more specifically the emergence of untreatable infections - was no longer a prediction, but a reality: a reality that's putting our ability to treat common infections and carry out many healthcare procedures at risk.

As early as 2009, the European Commission warned of the danger of this development, arguing that, "If the current trend is not altered, 300 million people worldwide are expected to die prematurely because of drug resistance over the next 35 years."

It is therefore essential that the pharmaceutical industry and other healthcare stakeholders rise to the challenge this situation presents, with commitment and speed.


Against this backdrop, the recent "Declaration by the Pharmaceutical, Biotechnology and Diagnostics Industries on Combating Antimicrobial Resistance", unveiled at the World Economic Forum in Davos, is a call to action to address the innovation gap undermining the fight against AMR.

The signatory industries have announced their readiness to collaborate with governments to deliver sustainable solutions to meet this global challenge, with the integrated goals of better conservation of antibiotic effectiveness, enhanced access and improved conditions for medicines, vaccines and diagnostic development.

The clear objective of the declaration is to stem the progression of AMR. Accordingly, the signatories commit to ensuring that antibiotics are only used in those patients who actually need them. Reinforcing this is a pledge to support education for clinical professionals on appropriate use, a move in line with the WHO global action plan's focus on improved stewardship.

It is also vital to improve overall hygiene, vaccination, and preventive treatments. The ultimate outcome would be a significant reduction in the number of infections that require antibiotic treatment. Furthermore, the signatories also aim to cut environmental pollution from antibiotics.

By employing a "one health" approach, we can additionally promote the prudent and responsible use of antibiotics in humans and reduce their unnecessary use in livestock.

We recognise that more work and investment are needed to overcome the difficulties of antibiotic discovery. Research carried out on new and re-purposed antibiotics remains vital, but new ways of working, opening up further collaboration between industry and public researchers may offer potential for improvement.

The New Drugs for Bad Bugs programme, part of the EU's Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), is testimony to what effective private partnerships in this field can achieve. We will work with payers and policymakers in devising new valuation mechanisms and commercial models, including investment via coordinated global routes.

Improving financial and access-related predictability for both Industry and health systems are also key to ensuring sustainable investment in new antibiotics and diagnostics.

To underscore our commitment, the declaration will be reviewed and updated every two years, to reflect progress and changing priorities. Industry is committed to partnering with governments, researchers and civil society in translating ideas to tackle AMR into action.

We will improve affordable access to high-quality antibiotics and ensure the availability of new ones to all patients who need them, no matter where they are and no matter what their income.


About the author

Richard Bergström is Director General of EFPIA (The European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations)

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