Ministers to incentivise drug companies in crackdown on ‘life-threatening’ rise in super-bugs

Posted On: 
24th January 2019

The Government will overhaul the way pharmaceutical firms are funded in a bid to encourage them to up the fight against drug-resistant infections.

Matt Hancock will make a speech in Davos
Credit: 
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Health Secretary Matt Hancock will today warn that antimicrobial resistance is “as big a danger to humanity as climate change or warfare” while outlining a five-year plan to tackle the scourge.

The Government will bring in a new payment model within six months that rewards companies based on innovation rather than bulk sales of antibiotics, at a time when ministers are trying to reduce antibiotic use.

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It comes as part of a bid to slash the number of drug-resistant infections by 5,000, or 10%, by 2025, with the hope of preventing at least 15,000 patients a year from contracting such infections by 2024.

More than 500,000 people across the world die every year from antibiotic resistant infections - a figure which is set to rise to 10 million a year by 2050.

Matt Hancock will tell the World Economic Forum in Davos that failing to tackle the issue could make common procedures such as hip operations and caesarean sections “too risky to carry out”.

“Imagine a world without antibiotics. Where treatable infections become untreatable, where routine surgery like a hip operation becomes too risky to carry out, and where every wound is potentially life-threatening,” he is expected to say.

“What would go through your mind if your child cut their finger and you knew there was no antibiotic left that could treat an infection? This was the human condition until almost a century ago. I don’t want it to be the future for my children – yet it may be unless we act.

“Each and every one of us benefits from antibiotics, but we all too easily take them for granted, and I shudder at the thought of a world in which their power is diminished. Antimicrobial resistance is as big a danger to humanity as climate change or warfare. That’s why we need an urgent global response.”

Prime Minister Theresa May said: “The increase in antibiotic resistance is a threat we cannot afford to ignore. It is vital that we tackle the spread of drug-resistant infections before routine operations and minor illnesses become life-threatening.

In a statement, the health department said: “Low returns on investment in development means industry does not innovate enough and as a result, very few of the new drugs that are currently in the pipeline are targeted towards priority infections.”