Calls to develop new antibiotics

Experts said more must be done to support the discovery of new antibiotics

Experts said more must be done to support the discovery of new antibiotics

First published in National News © by

Big drug companies have little incentive to develop new antibiotics despite huge concerns about resistance to the drugs, leading pharmacists have said.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) said the prospect of creating new drugs was "low due to the poor return on investment they provide".

In it's latest report, the RPS said more must be done to support the discovery of new antibiotics.

The RPS also called for more education for the public on the use of the medicines and better management of the drugs by healthcare workers.

The report stated: "The incentive for pharmaceutical companies to develop new antibiotics is low due to the poor return on investment they provide.

"This is because they are usually taken for a short period of time, are frequently curative and newer drugs are often reserved to treat patients with infections which are resistant to treatment by other antibiotics."

In April the World Health Organisation warned that antibiotic resistance was no longer a looming danger but a reality with the potential to affect anyone of any age in any country.

It said that u rgent action was needed to stem the threat to global public health before it was too late.

Last year, England's chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies said resistance to antibiotics was one of the greatest threats to modern health.

She stressed that many of the drugs were being used unnecessarily for mild infections which should not be treated with antibiotics, helping to fuel resistance.

Dame Sally said there had been a "discovery void" in the field since 1987 - when the last of the drugs were developed - and called for better incentives for drug companies to create new antibiotics.

The RPS report said there was an urgent need for new medicines and funding.

It has called for a " revolution in financing to match the coming treatment revolution".

The authors of the report, titled New Medicines, Better Medicines, Better Use of Medicines, said there were "major challenges" inhibiting the creation of new medicines and set out a series of recommendations for the Government, the scientific community and pharmaceutical industry.

It said that more must be done to reduce the costs and time to bring a new medicine to the market.

And new funding mechanisms needed to be explored in order to incentivise drug development.

RPS's chief scientist Professor Jayne Lawrence, said: "We are living in an incredibly exciting age, where the human genome is being decoded and scientists are examining how we can cure diseases rather than just offer symptomatic relief.

"However, the market is not set up to incentivise the production of new types of medicines.

"The current crisis in antimicrobial resistance is in part due to the lack of new classes of antibiotics coming on the market.

"Antibiotics can cure infections in weeks, so the volume of sales of drugs is low.

"This doesn't allow the tens or even hundreds of millions required for research and development to be recouped.

"We need the NHS to be able to cope with funding treatments which have a high initial cost but may not require a lifetime of use by patients.

"Unless we find a way to develop treatments that cure illnesses in months, rather than treat symptoms for years, we will not see the breakthroughs that both scientists and patients want."

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "We know urgent action must be taken to combat antimicrobial resistance or we could face serious problems in years to come.That is why the UK is working with WHO and international bodies to support global action.

"The development of new antibiotics is key and we are identifying opportunities to promote this. Equally important are better education for patients and NHS staff about good antibiotic prescribing, high-quality infection control, and support for research.

"We have active programmes in all these areas, which together will help us stay one step ahead both nationally and internationally."

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