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Pharma industry backs UK antibiotics plan

GSK and ABPI back David Cameron’s call for global action on antimicrobial resistance

UK flagThe UK pharmaceutical industry has given its backing to ambitious plans from the Government to encourage research into new antibiotics.

Prime Minister David Cameron this week launched a wide-reaching independent review to explore the economic issues surrounding antimicrobial resistance – a fast growing public health issue as bacteria continues to develop immunity to current treatments.

According to the Department of Health, the review “will set out a plan for encouraging and accelerating the discovery and development of new generations of antibiotics” to replace the current fold.

It follows a call last year by the UK's chief medical officer Sally Davies for greater incentives to invest in this area of research, which is seen as an area of little interest for many pharma companies due to the short product lifetimes of antimicrobial agents and the potential for healthcare systems to withhold products for the future, limiting the time a company can benefit from patent exclusivity.

Companies still working in the field include GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), which described the launch of the review as “a positive step towards addressing this global public health threat”.

“This is a very complex area and new approaches are needed if more companies are to be encouraged to invest in this area,” added the company. “This needs to include new economic models and more open-minded approaches to sharing information and working with partners across the public and private sectors.”

Public/private partnerships already exist in the area, including a five-company collaboration as part of the Innovative Medicines Initiative's New Drugs for Bad Bugs (ND4BB) programme.

GSK also received the first part of up to $200m in funding last year from the US Government to support research into new antibiotics.

The UK's antibiotic review intends to add to these projects, and will examine how to make investing in new antibiotics more attractive to pharma companies and other funding bodies.

Other areas the review intends to assess the balance between effective and sustainable incentives for investment, and the need to conserve antimicrobial drugs so they remain effective for as long as possible.

International cooperation on antibiotics will also come into the review, including working more closely with low and middle income countries.

The review will be led by economist Jim O'Neill and is co-funded and hosted by medical research foundation the Wellcome Trust. O'Neill will work independently of government and will collaborate with international experts on antimicrobial resistance.

Industry body the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) welcomed the review, with Dr Louise Leong, director of R&D policy, claiming that “antibiotics are undervalued and their price has not always reflected their value to society”.

“It is widely recognised that we are not seeing enough development of new and novel classes of antibiotics due to scientific, regulatory and financial obstacles,” she added.

The launch of the review follows the announcement this week that the Longitude Prize will focus on antibiotics. The £10m award will be given to a research project investigating a diagnostic tool to determine if an infection is caused by bacteria or by a viral infection.

Article by
Thomas Meek

3rd July 2014

From: Research, Healthcare

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