European Parliament keen to play key role in boosting actions to tackle AMR

COVID-19 may only be a foretaste of what we could expect from a world where antimicrobials are no longer effective, explains deputy chair of the European Parliament’s MEP interest group on AMR, Tiemo Wölken
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The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded the world of the serious threat of emerging infectious diseases on human health and our economies.

It has also highlighted the need for increased monitoring and surveillance tools, improved infection prevention and control practices, access to rapid diagnostic tests, and the development effective and affordable medicines and vaccines.

The deficiencies revealed, however, have long been recognised in the fight against Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR). Not enough has been done to tackle this severe problem.

Since their discovery, antimicrobials have transformed medicine and saved lives. However, these achievements are under threat due to the excessive and inappropriate use of antibiotics in human and animal health.

Their overuse has led to a huge increase in multi-resistant bacteria, which are easily spread and difficult to treat. If antibiotics stop working, common infections would likely cause significant harm or death and routine medical procedures would become high risk.

Like COVID-19, AMR represents a serious cross-border health threat. AMR is even among the WHO list of 10 threats to global health.

The 2019 special report by the European Court of Auditors on AMR makes clear that we have to act on this topic. Due to infections in hospitals and other healthcare settings, up to 33,000 people die within the EU/EEA every year. According to a UN report, AMR could cause the death of 10 million people annually by 2050.

The European Parliament can, and wants, to play a key role in boosting actions to tackle AMR at EU level. That is why we recently launched an Interest Group to address this urgent issue and I am happy to be the vice chair of this group.

"The European Parliament can, and wants, to play a key role in boosting actions to tackle AMR at EU level. That is why we recently launched an Interest Group to address this urgent issue and I am happy to be the vice chair of this group"

As we know, there is no silver bullet to address AMR. For this reason our interest group is proposing a comprehensive approach that takes into account the human, animal and environmental components of this important issue.

The clock is ticking to prevent the spread of AMR and ensure the long-term efficiency of the life-saving antibiotics at the base of our modern medicine. However, I think we can still act on time.

If we act together, I believe we can still reverse the trends, while keeping the focus of our work on patients and their needs.

This is also the reason I am very happy to hear that industry is stepping up its game and forming an “AMR Action Fund.” This was launched on 9 July and $1bn has already been pledged to support new clinical research on AMR.

Let us be honest here, AMR is also caused due to market failure; A market failure in investing in research and development of new antibiotics.

The current system is designed to generate profit for pharmaceutical companies and the industry is failing to deliver on new health technology for treatments that simply do not and cannot promise high returns of investment.

AMR therefore represents a commercial dilemma for private sector companies as development of a new drug is very cost intensive. Any new drug would need to be used as little as possible, hence it would not bring in any profit.

"I am happy to see that the pharmaceutical industry is stepping forward and launching an initiative to tackle AMR. This fund is, however, only a first step in the right direction. This has to be about team play. For this reason the AMR interest group in Parliament aims to push this topic during this mandate and put pressure on the European Commission to come up with a proposal that not only gives guidelines but puts forward mandatory action"

So, again, I am happy to see that the pharmaceutical industry is stepping forward and launching an initiative to tackle AMR.

This fund is, however, only a first step in the right direction. This has to be about team play. For this reason the AMR interest group in Parliament aims to push this topic during this mandate and put pressure on the European Commission to come up with a proposal that not only gives guidelines but puts forward mandatory action. This is necessary as the uptake of the Commission’s recommendations is not at all satisfactory.

We all have to play our part to win the fight against AMR and we will push the best we can to find a solution. Let us hope that the Commission has something in mind for the upcoming pharmaceutical strategy.

Superbug resistance to antibiotics not only threatens lives but undermines every aspect of modern medicine. This is why we need to act now to safeguard the scientific achievements of the last century.

COVID-19 has already put our healthcare systems under extreme pressure but this could only be the foretaste of what we could expect from a world where antimicrobials are no longer effective.

Read the most recent articles written by Tiemo Wölken MEP - A modern approach to Health Technology Assessment

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