AstraZeneca and pharma bodies urge funding for antibiotics research

Pharmaceutical machine operating to produce medicine
Without funding, up to 10 million people could die as a result of drug-resistant bacteria by 2050.

Industry bodies and British pharmaceutical manufacturer, AstraZeneca have warned the Government in an open letter, that without funding research in anti-biotics there could be a "terrible human cost".

The letter, published in the Financial Times, stated that by 2050 drug-resistant bacteria could kill up to 10 million people a year.

The industry is urgently calling for a new economic model for antibiotic research.

The letter stated: “Beyond the terrible human cost, if we fail to act now, antimicrobial resistance is also expected to cost the world economy $100tn a year by 2050.”

It said without research and innovation, “everything from routine surgical procedures, to cancer chemotherapy, organ transplantation and even childbirth will become increasingly dangerous.”

It has been more than a quarter of a century since the last new class of antibiotics was released.

Steve Bates BioIndustry Association chief executive, a signee of the letter, said companies need to be rewarded for their investment in a way that does not encourage the overuse of antibiotics. He suggested in the letter the establishment of an insurance-style programme that paid a fixed fee for antibiotics, to ensure manufacturers don’t concentrate on drugs that would be the most financially lucrative.

Bates told the BBC, “In the past, this was an area where there was the possibility for global companies to make a significant return on investment.

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It has been 30 years since the release of the last class of antibiotic drugs.

“That’s changed and now companies look at different areas. We need to rebalance this so they can come back into this space once again.”

Jim O’Neill, Treasury economist, has been commissioned by the government to produce a report in the first quarter of 2016.

Earlier this year, the Treasuring economist, urged for a $2bn global antibiotic research fund and said the government should provide upfront payments for successful new antibiotics.

Other signees of the letter were John Rex, a senior AstraZeneca executive; Prof Colin Garner, chief executive of Antibiotic Research UK; Prof Jayne Lawrence, chief scientist at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society; Prof Luigi Martini, of King’s College London; and Jeremy Lefroy MP.