During the World Economic Forum in Switzerland last week, over 80 pharmaceutical companies – including major players like GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer and Merck – pledged to devote more resources to the development of new antibiotics. The coalition also called on multiple governments to provide better incentives for antibiotic R&D.
According to those participating in the forum, the price of newly-developed antibiotic treatments is often disproportionate to the amount of research capital that’s put into developing them. The declaration – signed by nine industry associations and 85 companies spread across 18 different countries – calls for government funding to create a “sustainable and predictable market for these technologies.”
Antibiotic resistance among bacterial infections is more prevalent today than it’s ever been, with some completely antibiotic-resistant strains being identified over the past few years. The coalition of pharmaceutical companies pointed out that in the last 40 years, no new classes of gram-negative antibiotics have been approved.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), two million individuals contract antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections each year, and 23,000 people die as a result. As antibiotics are among the lowest priced medications, drugmakers often find it difficult to get a return on their investment into R&D for new antibiotics.
“We support the increasing recognition that the value assigned to antibiotics and diagnostics often does not reflect the benefits they bring to society, nor the investment required for their creation,” says the declaration. “Therefore, we call on governments to commit to allocating the funds needed to create a sustainable and predictable market for these technologies while also implementing the measures needed to safeguard the effectiveness of antibiotic.”
In an effort to address the issue, the pharmaceutical companies are urging governments to provide funding for market structures that would “reduce the link between financial revenues for new antibiotics and the amount they get used.” As some antibiotics are used only in emergency situations, they aren’t prescribed in the same manner as other classes of drugs.
The companies involved have suggested that lump sum payments could be made to those developing antibiotics that have been proven effective, in order to incentivize further R&D. They are also in favour of reducing the incentives for physicians to over-prescribe antibiotic treatments.
Should governments be willing to do their part, the pharmaceutical companies have pledged to allocate more resources towards R&D for antibiotics, and establish better partnerships between the industry and the public. In agreement with leaders in the field, the coalition also encourages the use of antibiotics on only the patients that need them.