Saturday, 16 February, 2019

United Kingdom launches plans to help combat antimicrobial resistance by 2040

Health Secretary Matt Hancock Health Secretary Matt Hancock
Ben Pena | 27 January, 2019, 10:24

Antibiotics can treat bacterial infections but they are of no use against viruses such as colds and flu.

For several years the NHS and other health organisations around the world have been trying to use antibiotics less often.

The government has also published its 20-year vision for how the United Kingdom will contribute to containing and controlling AMR by 2040.

Experts say doctors could be prescribing antibiotics too often, and sometimes giving them to patients who don't really need them.

Key elements of the five-year strategy include incentives for pharmaceutical companies to carry out R&D in new antimicrobial drugs - such as the £50m in funding made available via the UK's GlobalAMR Innovation Fund (GAMRIF) - and reducing the inappropriate use of antibiotics by 15% in five years. But the number of drug-resistant bloodstream infections have increased by 35% from 2013 to 2017.

We will pay upfront so pharmaceutical companies know that it's worthwhile for them to invest the estimated £1 billion it costs to develop a new drug.

AMR poses such a substantial threat that it is predicted to kill 10 million people every year by 2050, due to the misuse of medicines, and without effective antibiotics, routine operations could become too risky to perform.

"Low returns on investment in development means industry does not innovate enough and as a result, very few of the new drugs that are now in the pipeline are targeted towards priority infections".

Medical charity the Wellcome Trust welcomed news of the government plan but urged it to move quickly.

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'We can also help reduce misuse of antibiotics by educating our patients to take and dispose of them responsibly'.

"This plan makes a strong argument for continuing United Kingdom leadership on this important debate, but we must move further and faster to ensure there is a sustainable pipeline for the antibiotics we so urgently need", he added.

It also sets out specific targets, including halving healthcare-associated Gram-negative blood stream infections, reducing the overall number of specific drug-resistant infections by 10% within five years, and reducing antibiotic use in food-producing animals by 25% between 2016 and 2020.

Livestock and pets account for more than a third of antibiotic consumption in the United Kingdom, though the government says sales for use in food production have fallen by 40%.

In 2018, Public Health England reported the case of of a United Kingdom man infected with a multidrug-resistant form of gonorrhea.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: "Imagine a world without antibiotics". Without effective antibiotics, straightforward, everyday operations like caesarean sections or hip replacements could become too unsafe to perform.

The health secretary, Matt Hancock, is to announce the proposals at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Thursday, where he will make the case for AMR to be treated as a "global health emergency" that poses as big a threat to humanity as climate change.

"For example, the potential presence of antibiotics and resistance genes in the environment is an area that is of growing concern to both medical and veterinary specialists".

The government said that, without action, AMR could be responsible for 10 million deaths around the world each year by 2050.

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