Antibiotic resistance: A global, silent pandemic that is solvable
ABPI President Ben Osborn explains the problem of antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics are one of the most powerful tools in healthcare and almost everyone relies on them at some point. Because we use them so much, it can be easy to forget just how important they are.
Without antibiotics, the minor becomes major. A cut on the finger can be risky and routine surgeries could become life-threatening.
Drug resistant infections are on the rise and there are too few new antibiotics coming down the pipeline to tackle them: By 2050, it is predicted that 10 million people per year will die worldwide from resistant infections. This is the silent pandemic which could impact the whole world.
Identifying the problem
We can solve this by developing new antibiotics. But there is a problem.
Antibiotics are not like other medicines, because when we develop one that works against a ‘superbugs’, we save it for the patients who really need it.
This means new products could just sit unused on shelf. In this scenario the cost of development could exceed the return, undermining future research.
Because the model to develop antibiotics is broken, the number of companies carrying out the research is dwindling.
By 2050, it is predicted that 10 million people per year will die worldwide from resistant infections.
Fixing a broken model
Despite the pipeline challenges, some pharmaceutical companies are continuing to research new antibiotics and industry as a whole has also launched a USD 1 billion investment fund in the hope of bringing 2–4 new antibiotics to the market in 2030.
But we can’t solve this on our own. We need governments around the world to start trying to fix the broken model and make sure we have new antibiotics coming to market.
The UK is doing what they can. The Government put the issue on the G7 agenda. The NHS is about to start testing a first-of-its-kind ‘subscription-style’ payment model that will help incentivise companies to develop new drugs needed to tackle resistant infections.
The need for global partnerships
This is great news, but the UK is a tiny part of the global market. If other countries don’t step up to the plate soon we won’t see progress.
Here in the UK, we can’t rest on our laurels either. The new model is promising, but right now it’s just being tested on two products. We need to see the test evolve into a robust process for all new antibiotics.
A global partnership between Governments and the pharmaceutical industry is the only way we’ll tackle drug resistant infections for good. Our industry wants to be part of making that happen for everyone involved.
A global partnership between Governments and the pharmaceutical industry is the only way we’ll tackle drug resistant infections for good. Our industry wants to be part of making that happen for everyone involved. ABPI President Ben Osborn
- Antibiotic resistance
- Anti Microbial Resistance
Last modified: 20 September 2023
Last reviewed: 20 September 2023