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UK says pharma needs incentives for antimicrobial drug research

Chief medical officer calls for greater risk-sharing between public and private sector

Dame Sally Davies

The pharmaceutical industry should be given greater inventives to invest in the research of antimicrobial drugs to tackle to growing threat of superbugs, said Dame Sally Davies, chief medical officer for England and Wales.

In volume two of her first annual report, Dame Sally (pictured) highlighted the risk of increased resistance to current antibiotics for infectious diseases and the lack of new treatments to replace existing therapies.

“This is in part due to the scientific challenge associated with the problem but is also partly due to the conditions of the market for new pharmaceuticals,” said Dame Sally in the report.

These conditions include the short product lifetimes of antimicrobial agents due to their diminishing efficacy, as well the decision to withhold some products for the future, limiting the time a company can benefit from patent exclusivity.

“In short, there are fewer economic incentives to produce new antimicrobial agents than there are for other classes of drug – a market failure,” said Dame Sally.

To overcome this challenge, companies need greater encouragement to develop antimicrobial drugs, with greater collaboration and risk-sharing between the pharma industry and the public sector.

“There are many ways to incentivise innovation, engaging the private sector, public institutions and academia,” said Dame Sally.

“The challenge is to alter the balance of these incentives so that we have a thriving, vibrant, sustainable and safe programme of research and development into new antimicrobials.”

Dame Sally Davies discusses volume two of her first annual report

Such collaborations are already in existence, with Dame Sally referencing the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) – a public-private healthcare partnership between the EU and members of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) – which announced last year its intention to fund the develop of new antibiotics.

The first two projects from this programme were launched last month – one of which involves a collaboration between GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), AstraZeneca (AZ), Janssen and academia on a pan-European clinical trial network.

The other will see AZ, Basilea, GSK, Janssen and Sanofi work with universities and small business to identifying new ways of getting antibiotics into bacteria.

UK trade body the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) backed the report's assertion that more needs to be done to tackle antimicrobial resistance (AMR), with CEO Stephen Whitehead commenting: “The pharmaceutical industry is acutely aware of this problem and companies do invest resources in researching innovation and improvement in this field.”

According to Whitehead, this must be supported by a strong AMR Strategy and Action Plan - a strategy on overcoming the threat of antimicrobial resistance that is soon to be published by the Department of Health.

“If the UK is to continue to be at the forefront of antibiotic research and innovation, it is essential that the Government's AMR Strategy urgently delivers the right environment for sustainable development: by recognising the impact of antibiotics on mortality and morbidity, by continuing to support the European Innovative Medicines Initiative, and undertaking a comprehensive review of R&D conditions in the UK,” said Whitehead.

The first volume of Dame Sally's first annual report, which aims to give a picture of the UK's health, was published In November 2012. It highlighted growing rates of liver disease and the need to tackle obesity, undiagnosed hepatitis infection and harmful alcohol use.

12th March 2013

From: Research, Healthcare

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