'Superbugs' must be fought by governments and industry, urges declaration


More than 80 firms and pharmaceutical giants have issued a joint declaration on the need to tackle antibiotic resistance.

The declaration is being launched at the World Economic Forum in Davos and calls on governments and industry to work together to tackle the rise in so-called superbugs.

Antibiotic resistance is an increasing global threat and occurs when bacteria adapt and find new ways to survive the effects of antibiotics.

Estimates for the EU showed there are 400,000 cases of reported antibiotic-resistant infections each year, with 25,000 deaths.

Drug-resistant infections could kill an extra 10 million people across the world every year by 2050 if they are not tackled, figures also suggest.

The new Declaration on Combating Antimicrobial Resistance - drafted and signed by 83 companies and eight industry associations from 16 countries - sees commercial drug and diagnostic developers agreeing on ways to develop new medicines and vaccines, as well as preserving the effects of existing drugs.

This includes more rapid tests for illness to improve how antibiotics are prescribed, and cutting incentives that reward medics for prescribing antibiotics in large volumes.

It calls on governments to look at the financing arrangements for the research and development of new drugs, as well as antibiotic pricing to reflect the benefits they bring.

Furthermore, it says there is a need to reduce the link between the profitability of an antibiotic and the volume sold.

It also calls for more training for professionals in prescribing antibiotics, and support for initiatives aimed at ensuring affordable access to antibiotics in all parts of the world.

The declaration will be updated every two years.

Lord Jim O'Neill, chairman of the review on antimicrobial resistance, which will report to Prime Minister David Cameron, said: "This declaration from industry is a major step forward in establishing a properly global response to the challenges of drug resistance.

"The pharmaceutical industry, as well as society at large, cannot afford to ignore the threat of antibiotic resistance, so I commend those companies who have signed the declaration for recognising the long-term importance of revitalising research and development in antibiotics, and for their leadership in overcoming the difficult issues of collective action at play here."

Sir Andrew Witty, chief executive of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), one of the signatories, said: "At GSK we have a long heritage and expertise in antibiotics, we've been researching and providing these medicines since the Second World War and we remain committed to continuing in this area.

"I'm proud that in spite of the scientific challenges of antibiotic research, we still have an active pipeline, which includes a potential new and first-in-class treatment entering late stage development."

Paul Stoffels, worldwide chairman for pharmaceuticals at Johnson & Johnson, said: "We are pleased to be part of this important initiative to combat antimicrobial resistance. Antimicrobials are the backbone of modern medicine, and have played a key role in increasing life expectancy globally.

"At Johnson & Johnson, our long-standing commitment to innovation in antimicrobial research and development is evident through our legacy products and our new efforts to support ongoing research."

England's chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, said: "A secure supply of new antibiotics for the future is clearly of vital importance, and I look forward to seeing an advancement of discussions between companies and governments on how we build new and sustainable market models that properly incentivise the discovery and development of new antibiotics, whilst ensuring affordable access to these crucial drugs for all those who need them in all parts of the world."