Report outlines measures to combat antibiotic resistance

The researchers argue that without the economic incentives they propose, new treatments to use in the fight against antibiotic-resistant bacteria may never make it to patients. Keystone

A plan to fight back against antibiotic resistance, developed by an international consortium managed by Swiss researchers, calls for marketing incentives for research and development investments into crucial new drugs.

This content was published on January 25, 2018

Researchers and public health organisations have long been raising awareness about the problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and the lack of new treatments being developed to combat these strains.

Now, DRIVE-ABExternal link, an international consortium of public health organisations, researchers and pharmaceutical companies piloted by the University of Geneva (UNIGE) and England-based AstraZenecaExternal link, has published a report that proposes concrete economic solutions to combat this global problem.

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In particular, the writers of the report, published WednesdayExternal link, recommend a market entry reward for antibiotics fulfilling certain conditions to meet the health needs of the public, in order to create more attractive conditions for research and development investments.

They argue that such a reward – involving a series of payments to a pharmaceutical developer for getting regulatory approval for a certain antibiotic – of $1 billion (CHF940 million) per product could significantly increase the number of new drugs entering the market in the next 30 years. Such a financial incentive would be accompanied by requirements for responsible use of and equitable access to these medicines, they write.

Stephan Harbarth, a professor at the University of Geneva Faculty of Medicine and the coordinator of the DRIVE-AB project, said in a statement that implementing such incentives would take time. He emphasised that it is therefore imperative to act quickly, so that “these new antibiotics will be at our disposal in the next ten to 20 years”.

Other models analysed in the report include non-refundable research grants, the creation of government organisations to identify and fill holes in the global antibiotic pipeline, and long-term financing to guarantee a stable supply of generic antibiotics. 

The consequences of antibiotic resistance are severe and on the rise. For the first time last year, Switzerland launched its own campaign in parallel to the World Health Organization’s annual Antibiotic Awareness Week, to educate the public as well as experts on issue.

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