Antimicrobial resistance will become an even deadlier threat to mankind than cancer is today without coordinated global action, Chancellor George Osborne warned today (Thursday 14 April)..
Appearing in Washington, D.C. to discuss international action to tackle the growing problem of antibiotics becoming powerless against common infections, the Chancellor said that the latest evidence suggested that by 2050 10 million people a year could die globally as a result– which is more than currently die from cancer each year.
He warned that apart from the consequences for human health, there will be an ‘enormous economic cost’ too. He said that by 2050, antimicrobial resistance could reduce global GDP by up to 3.5 per cent – a cumulative cost of $100 trillion.
The Chancellor said the reimbursement models for antibiotics and diagnostics are ‘broken’ and call for a global overhaul.
He backed a proposal from Treasury minister Lord O’Neill and others to create ‘market entry rewards’; large lump sums paid to a pharmaceutical company, or set of companies, that successfully get a new antibiotic or diagnostic to market.
Lord O’Neill, the renowned economist who coined the acronym BRICS, was commissioned by the UK government to lead a Review on Antimicrobial Resistance to address the growing global problem of drug-resistant infections.
He and his team will publish their final set of recommendations next month.
The Chancellor appeared today alongside experts including Dr Margaret Chan, Director General of the World Health Organisation, and Larry Summers, the former US Treasury Secretary who is Charles W. Eliot University Professor and President Emeritus, Harvard University; and Chair, Board of Directors, Center for Global Development.
The Chancellor said:
Unless we take global action, antimicrobial resistance will become an even greater threat to mankind than cancer currently is.
It is not just a health problem but an economic one, too. The cost of doing nothing, both in terms of lives lost and money wasted, is too great, and the world needs to come together to agree a common approach.
My message here at the IMF meeting in Washington is that we need the world’s governments and industry leaders to work together in radical new ways.
We have to dramatically shift incentives for pharmaceutical companies and others to create a long-term solution to this problem, with new rewards, funded globally, that support the development of new antibiotics and ensure access to antibiotics in the developing world.
To achieve a long-term solution we also need better rapid diagnostics that will cut the vast amounts of unnecessary antibiotic use.
Britain has taken a series of steps to push the problem of antimicrobial resistance up the international agenda.
In 2014 the PM was the first G20 leader to speak out publicly about the magnitude of the threat, and asked Lord O’Neill to look at this issue globally and come up with potential solutions.
The UK has already implemented two of his initial recommendations: to increase government funding for early stage research by establishing the AMR fund with China, also in collaboration with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; and the £265m/$375m Fleming Fund, to help build capabilities in low-income settings to monitor the development and spread of drug resistance.