World Economic Forum: More than 80 firms issue joint declaration in bid to combat 'superbugs'

Figures suggest drug-resistant infections could kill an extra 10 million people across the world every year by 2050

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Governments and industry must join forces to combat “superbugs” responsible for the deaths of around 25,000 people in the EU alone every year.

More than 80 firms and pharmaceutical giants will issue a joint declaration at the World Economic Forum in Davos on the need to tackle antibiotic resistance. The increasing global threat occurs when bacteria adapt and find new ways to survive the effects of antibiotics.

If action is not taken the situation could get far worse with figures suggesting drug-resistant infections could kill an extra 10 million people across the world every year by 2050.

The new Declaration on Combating Antimicrobial Resistance - drafted and signed by 83 companies and eight industry associations from 16 countries - sees commercial drug and diagnostic developers agreeing on ways to develop new medicines and vaccines, as well as preserving the effects of existing drugs.

More rapid tests for illness to improve how antibiotics are prescribed, and cutting incentives that reward medics for prescribing antibiotics in large volumes, are two of the recommendations.

The declaration, which will be updated biennially, calls on governments to look at the financing arrangements for the research and development of new drugs, as well as antibiotic pricing to reflect the benefits they bring. It also says there is a need to reduce the link between the profitability of an antibiotic and the volume sold.

More training should be given for professionals in prescribing antibiotics, and support for initiatives aimed at ensuring affordable access to antibiotics in all parts of the world.

Lord Jim O’Neill, chairman of the review on antimicrobial resistance, which will report to David Cameron, said: “This declaration from industry is a major step forward in establishing a properly global response to the challenges of drug resistance.

“The pharmaceutical industry, as well as society at large, cannot afford to ignore the threat of antibiotic resistance, so I commend those companies who have signed the declaration for recognising the long-term importance of revitalising research and development in antibiotics, and for their leadership in overcoming the difficult issues of collective action at play here.”

England’s chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, said: “A secure supply of new antibiotics for the future is clearly of vital importance, and I look forward to seeing an advancement of discussions between companies and governments on how we build new and sustainable market models that properly incentivise the discovery and development of new antibiotics, whilst ensuring affordable access to these crucial drugs for all those who need them in all parts of the world.”

What is antibiotic resistance?

Antibiotic resistance is the resistance of a microbe to an antimicrobial medication that used to be effective in treating or preventing an infection caused by that microbe.

Resistance is a natural biological phenomenon but is increased and accelerated by various factors such as misuse of medicines, poor infection control practices and global trade and travel – which is a particular concern for antibiotics.

Many of the medical advances in recent years, for example organ transplantation and cancer chemotherapy, need antibiotics to prevent and treat the bacterial infections that can be caused by the treatment. Without effective antibiotics, even minor surgery and routine operations could become high risk procedures if serious infections can’t be treated.

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