Big Pharma accused of "endless talk, no action" on antibiotic threat

By Kate Kelland LONDON, March 27 (Reuters) - The pharmaceutical industry should match its words with action on researching new antibiotics to address the threat posed by drug-resistant superbugs, a former UK government adviser said on Wednesday. In a strongly-worded attack on major drug companies, Jim O'Neill, who headed a British government global review of antimicrobial resistance in 2016, said the industry had produced 'endless talk and no action', and was engaged in little more than 'spewing out nonsense' about the problem

Reuters March 28, 2019 03:06:35 IST
Big Pharma accused of "endless talk, no action" on antibiotic threat

Big Pharma accused of quotendless talk no actionquot on antibiotic threat

By Kate Kelland

LONDON, March 27 (Reuters) - The pharmaceutical industry should match its words with action on researching new antibiotics to address the threat posed by drug-resistant superbugs, a former UK government adviser said on Wednesday.

In a strongly-worded attack on major drug companies, Jim O'Neill, who headed a British government global review of antimicrobial resistance in 2016, said the industry had produced "endless talk and no action", and was engaged in little more than "spewing out nonsense" about the problem.

"If the pharma companies delivered one tenth of the commitment in their words, we might be getting somewhere," O'Neill told reporters at a briefing in London.

O'Neill, also formerly chief economist of Goldman Sachs, said his frustration at the lack of commitment by drug companies had reached a point where he now believes the best solution might be to create a government-funded "utility" type drug company, which would not be beholden to shareholders.

Any use of antibiotics promotes the development and spread of superbugs - multi-drug-resistant infections that can evade the antimicrobial drugs designed to kill them.

O'Neill's 18-month-long review, commissioned by former British prime minister David Cameron and concluded in 2016, found that the threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) could kill an extra 10 million people a year by 2050 and cost up to $100 trillion if nothing is done to slow or halt it.

Global health experts agree the world urgently needs new medicines to keep ahead of the superbugs. But pharmaceutical firms are reluctant to invest in developing drugs that would not be sold in large volumes because of the need to preserve them.

O'Neill has proposed a "pay or play" solution to the problem, in which drug companies would be subject to a surcharge if they decide not to invest in research and development (R&D) to bring successful new antimicrobial medicines to market.

For those firms who do decide to "play", he suggests, a reward of between $1 billion and $1.5 billion should be paid for any successful new antibiotic drug developed.

Asked to respond to O'Neill's comments on Wednesday, the global industry body, the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA), described some of his ideas as "pipe dreams". IFPMA said his suggestion of creating a public utility had "little to commend it".

"Rather than wasting time running after new pipe dreams, we call for a big push to sort out the incentives that have broad consensus - fast - before we give up," it said in a statement emailed to Reuters.

(Reporting by Kate Kelland; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:

TAGS:

also read

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources
| Reuters
World

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources | Reuters

By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States

China's Xi says navy should become world class
| Reuters
World

China's Xi says navy should become world class | Reuters

BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.