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article imageBig Pharma wants governments to pay for new antibiotics

By Tim Sandle     Feb 2, 2016 in Health
Human society needs a new generation of antimicrobials to overcome the problem of multi-drug resistance. A key question stemming from this is who should pick up the bill?
The growing problem of antimicrobial resistance has been well publicized. A range of pathogenic bacteria have become resistant to one or more antimicrobials (multi-drug resistant), meaning people who are vulnerable – the young, the elderly, those with weak immune systems – are at risk from contracting infections that cannot be readily treated.
Antimicrobial resistance has arisen partly through over-prescribing or inappropriate prescribing practices and the feeding of antibiotics to farm animals; as well as acquired resistance. The phenomenon of resistance has been known for decades, however the market incentives for pharmaceutical companies have not been sufficient (many drugs firms have argued the return on investment for developing pills that retail for a few dollars a jar have not been sufficient to justify years of research.)
In recent years the university sector, backed by government grants, has been where research into new antimicrobial candidates has taken place (an antibiotic is a ‘natural’ type of antimicrobial, derived from another microorganism as with penicillin; whereas antimicrobial refers to natural and synthetic products.)
The pharmaceutical industry seems to be of the view that they can help, but governments need to foot the bill. According to the BBC, a group of over 80 pharmaceutical companies have called on governments to propose new ways for paying them to develop a new generation of antimicrobials.
This call was made at the World Economic Forum. Here a statement indicated value of antibiotics "does not reflect the benefits they bring to society". Signatories included big names like GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson.
Provided governments pay more, the leading pharmaceutical companies are offering to put more resources into research and development.
The idea is supported by economist Jim O'Neill. He suggests payments should be given to the pharmaceutical sector paid for by governments, at a level of between $16 and 37 billion, pent across a ten year period.
More about Antibiotics, antimicrobials, Big pharma, Pharmaceuticals
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