Drugs

NHS strikes ground-breaking deal to tackle superbugs

The NHS have announced a first of its kind scheme delivering “superbug-busting” drugs that will help battle antimicrobial resistance, ultimately saving more lives.

The initial deal will be for two antimicrobial drugs – cefiderocol and ceftazidime–avibactam – that will tackle infections that have evolved to the point that antibiotics are no longer effective.

A University of Oxford study, published earlier this year, estimated that around 1.2 million deaths globally were caused by antibiotic resistance, with experts predicting that will only increase.

The drugs will offer a lifeline to patients with potentially terminal infections such as sepsis, pneumonia, and blood stream infections.

NHS Chief Executive, Amanda Pritchard, said: “Superbug-busting drugs on the NHS will save lives and strike a blow in the global battle against antimicrobial resistance.

“Until now, innovation in antibiotics has been limited, but this pioneering NHS subscription scheme aims to turn the tide by working with pharmaceutical firms to make sure we have these superbug-battling drugs ready and available to those patients who need them most.

“This world-leading agreement not only provides a template for other countries to follow, incentivising antimicrobial drug innovation globally, as we collectively deal with this threat to modern medicine and public health, but also gives new hope to thousands of patients who previously had no treatment options left.

“We have shown through the course of the Covid-19 pandemic the power of working together, combining our expertise across industries, in order to tackle emerging risks – whether that is Covid-19 or the very real threat of antimicrobial resistance – head on.”

The initiative means that pharmaceutical firms will be paid a fixed fee, which the NHS say is to “incentivise funding for innovation that can generate a pipeline of new antibiotics for NHS patients.” There is a maximum contract value, also encouraging external investment, of £10m per year for up to 10 years.

This is the first time any health programme in the world has successfully evaluated the value of an antimicrobial in this way and has been developed as part of a collaborative effort from NHS England, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, and the Department of Health and Social Care.

NHS Commercial Medicines Director, Blake Dark, said: “Once again the NHS is showing international leadership in using our commercial capabilities to reshape the approach to healthcare challenges, as we have done with hepatitis C infections, with early cancer testing and cardiovascular treatments.

“Working closely with partners at NICE, we know we’ve done something really special here and I’ve been delighted by the number of countries contacting us to ask how they can learn from this revolutionary approach.”

This is the latest in a long line of pharmaceutical innovations that have been rolled out by the NHS, including the world’s most expensive drug treatment for Metachromatic Leukodystrophy, the first sickle cell treatment in over two decades, and a wide array of targeted cancer treatments.

More information on the new deal is available here.

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