firms ask governments to join fight against superbugs
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[January 21, 2016]
DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - More
than 80 international drug and biotech firms urged governments to work
with them to combat drug-resistant superbugs which could kill tens of
millions of people within decades unless progress is made and new
In a declaration at the World Economic Forum in Davos, they called
for coordinated efforts to cut unnecessary use of antibiotics and
support development of new ones, including through changing drug
prices and investing in research.
The 83 pharmaceutical companies and eight industry groups urged
governments around the world to commit money "to provide appropriate
incentives...for companies to invest in R&D to overcome the
formidable technical and scientific challenges of antibiotic
discovery and development".
Any use of antibiotics promotes the development and spread of
so-called superbugs - multi-drug-resistant infections that can evade
the medicines designed to kill them.
International alarm about the superbug threat is rising after the
discovery in China of a gene called mcr-1 that makes bacteria
resistant to all known antibiotics.#
"For the world to continue to have new antibiotics, we need
investments in basic science and novel incentive models for industry
R&D, and to protect our existing treatments, we need new frameworks
for appropriate use," said Paul Stoffels, chief scientific officer
of Johnson & Johnson.
Former Goldman Sachs chief economist Jim O'Neill was asked in 2014
by Britain's prime minister to conduct a full review of the problem
and suggest ways to combat it.
In his initial report, he estimated antibiotic and microbial
resistance could kill an extra 10 million people a year and cost up
to $100 trillion by 2050 if it is not brought under control.
While the problem of infectious bugs becoming drug-resistant has
been a feature of medicine since the discovery of the first
antibiotic, penicillin, in 1928, it has grown in recent years as
drugmakers have cut back investment in the field.
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In their Davos declaration, the companies pledged to encourage more
appropriate use of new and existing antibiotics, including more
judicious use of the drugs in livestock.
They also promised to increase investment in R&D "that meets global
public health needs" and work to ensure affordable access to
antibiotics all over the world, at all levels of income.
Britain's chief medical officer Sally Davies said the declaration
was "a clear sign of industry's collective commitment to beating the
threat of antimicrobial resistance."
"I look forward to seeing an advancement of discussions between
companies and governments on how we build new and sustainable market
models that properly incentivize the discovery and development of
new antibiotics, whilst ensuring affordable access to these crucial
drugs for all," she said.
(Reporting by Kate Kelland in London and Ben Hirschler in Davos,
editing by Dominic Evans)
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