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Health Secretary launches trial payment system for new antibiotics

Health secretary Matt Hancock has officially launched the trial of a world-first subscription-style payment system for pharmaceutical companies to incentivise the creation of new antibiotics.

The new programme is aimed at encouraging development of new drugs to combat the superbug threat, and will come alongside a £2m fund to help raise public awareness on inappropriate antibiotics use.

Currently, drugs companies are paid by volume of antibiotics sold.

Under this model, it incentivises companies to market them at a time when the NHS is trying to reduce their use to prevent resistance.

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The new trial – which will be led by NICE and NHS England and Improvement – will test a ‘subscription’ model that pays pharmaceutical companies upfront for access to drugs based on their usefulness to the NHS.

This is believed will make it a more attractive proposition for companies to invest the estimated £1bn costs required in the developing a new drug, as they can be reassured they will still stand to be paid for the drug even if it is initially stored for reserves.

Mr Hancock said: ““There is no greater threat to global health than drug-resistant infections, yet there have been no major new antibiotic drug classes discovered since the 1980s.

“Imagine a world in which a papercut can lead to infection that can’t be controlled. We must stop that from happening. Tackling superbugs needs global leadership and peoples’ lives depend on us finding a new way forward.

PA-43434193 (credit;  Stefan Rousseau PA Wire PA Images)

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, has introduced a trial of a new subscription-style payment system for drugs companies to incentivise new antibiotics
(Image credit: Stefan Rousseau / PA Wire / PA Images)

“Our NHS is in a unique position to take a global lead in testing new payment models. We will take the lead but this is a global problem and we cannot succeed alone. I am proud the UK is taking the first steps towards a solution and I am urging the rest of the world to join us in the fight against superbugs.”

Speaking at the announcement of the project, health minister Nicola Blackwood also praised the move as potentially kickstarting further investment in the development of new drugs.

Ms Blackwood was also keen to see other countries follow suit, in order to avoid any chance of global market failure. As part of this, she’d be keen to see countries being actively involved and sharing learning with each other.

The UK healthcare system is already at the forefront of the fight against antimicrobial resistance (AMR), which has seen antibiotics begin to fail. Resistant bacteria already causes more than 700,000 deaths globally every year.

Today’s announcements followed the Government’s 2040 AMR vision and 5-year national action plan, published in January, and the appointment of Professor Dame Sally Davies as the first UK Special Envoy on AMR.


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