It usually is a bad sign when antimicrobial resistance—drug-resistant infection—is in the news. Antimicrobial resistance is the ability of microbes to resist the effects of drugs so the germs aren’t killed and their growth isn’t stopped. Last week, however, there was good news: 85 companies and nine industry associations in 18 different countries from across the pharmaceutical, diagnostics and biotechnology industries jointly called on governments and industry to work in parallel to take comprehensive action against drug-resistant infections.
At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, they presented the “Declaration by the Pharmaceutical, Biotechnology and Diagnostics Industries on Combating Antimicrobial Resistance.” The Declaration—signed by global leaders including AstraZeneca, Merck, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Novartis, Pfizer and Sanofi—details how governments and industry need to work together to, as they say, support sustained investment in the new products needed to beat the challenges of rising drug resistance.
Specifically, signatory companies call on governments to work with them to develop new and alternative market structures that provide more dependable and sustainable market models for antibiotics, and to commit the funds needed to implement them. These mechanisms, the signees explain, are needed to provide appropriate incentives, coupled with safeguards to support antibiotic conservation, for companies to invest in R&D to overcome the formidable technical and scientific challenges of antibiotic discovery and development. These include mechanisms to ensure that, where appropriate, the pricing of antibiotics more adequately reflects the benefits they bring, according to the Declaration. It would also require novel payment models that reduce the link between the profitability of an antibiotic and the volume sold. An integral part of these models is a reduced need for promotional activity by companies.
The importance of antibiotic development and a need to fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria has been an international problem for some time. The Center for Disease Control estimates drug-resistant bacteria accounts for two million illnesses and approximately 23,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. The situation is even worse in other countries, particularly in developing countries.
Last year, the White House issued a National Action Plan for Combatting Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria, which explained the steps the government should take to prevent drug resistant bacteria in the U.S. Although its primary purpose is to guide activities by the U.S. Government, the National Action Plan is also designed to guide action by public health, healthcare and veterinary partners in a “common effort to address urgent and serious drug-resistant threats that affect people in the U.S. and around the world,” according to a White House statement.
While that plan moves in the right direction, what’s interesting about the Declaration by the Pharmaceutical, Biotechnology and Diagnostics Industries on Combating Antimicrobial Resistance is not only that so many companies are in agreement, but that they also come from so many countries. Indeed, Lord Jim O’Neill, chairman of the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR), says the Declaration is a major step forward in establishing a global response to the challenges of drug resistance because such a wide range of companies agree on a common set of principles and commitments.
“This is a level of consensus that we have not previously seen from the industry on this topic,” O’Neill says.
What’s also encouraging is the companies’ willingness to work with governments to develop alternative market structures to enable sustainable investment. “That’s necessary if we are to overcome the formidable technical and scientific challenges of antibiotic discovery and development,” Pascal Soriot, chief executive of AstraZeneca plc, says.
I look forward to seeing how industry and governments can collaboratively address the challenge, but what about you? Whether you are in the pharmaceutical or biotech industry or not, what are your thoughts on stopping antimicrobial resistance?