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19.05.16

Global action needed to tackle ‘terrible cost’ of antimicrobial resistance

Action must be taken now to avoid the ‘terrible cost’ of antimicrobial resistance, the final review into the problem has said.

The government-commissioned report warns that at least 700,000 people a year are dying due to antimicrobial resistance, with the problem spreading from hospitals to the wider community, and this could rise to 10 million by 2050 – or one death every three seconds, with a high risk of infection in standard operations.

The economic cost is also likely to be severe, equalling $100trn a year or $10,000 for every person in the world.

Lord O’Neill, chair of the review, said: “My review not only makes it clear how big a threat AMR is to the world, with a potential 10 million people dying each year by 2050, but also now sets out a workable blueprint for bold, global action to tackle this challenge. The actions that I’m setting out today are ambitious in their scope – but this is a problem which it is well within our grasp to solve if we take action now.

“I call on the governments of the G7, G20 and the UN to take real action in 2016 on the ten proposals made by my review, to avoid the terrible human and economic costs of resistance that the world would otherwise face.”

He calls for global action to tackle the spread of antimicrobial resistance in both developed and developing countries, including public awareness campaigns, action to improve sanitation and reduce human and animal antimicrobial consumption, and promoting the use of vaccines and other alternatives.

The review also recommends more investment in developing alternative medications which are effective against drug-resistant microbes.

It warns that the problem has been consistently ignored by governments and researchers, with just 5% of investment in pharmaceutical research and development in 2003-13 going to antimicrobial resistance.

The estimated cost of the recommended measures is $40bn over a decade, much less than the cost of not taking action.

Suggested methods of funding it include a tax on antibiotics and an investment charge for pharmaceutical companies.

The review says a supra-national body will need to be set up particularly to tackle antimicrobial resistance, and calls for action to tackle the problem at this year’s meetings of the WHO World Health Assembly, G7, G20 and UN.

Professor Dame Sally Davies, chief medical officer for England, said “We must work with our international partners to ensure global action,” warning that failure to act could lead to the number of deaths due to infection, currently at 7%, returning to the pre-antibiotics level of 40%.

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: “The Patients Association welcomes this vital report which focuses much-needed attention on antimicrobial resistance, which is at heart a patient safety issue.”

She called on CCGs to provide more guidance to reduce antibiotic prescriptions, warning that failure to do so would “severely undermine” the UK’s ambitions to be a global leader in tackling antimicrobial resistance.”

The NHS has already offered £150m funding to trusts to reduce antibiotic resistance.

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