Last week was the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland and it has had an impact on the medical industry. One of the changes may come from a new declaration with more than 80 pharmaceutical and diagnostic companies from around the world are calling for new economic models to spur development of badly needed new antibiotics and to fight the rising global threat of drug-resistant “superbugs.”
The signers of the declaration include heavy hitters, such big pharmaceutical companies as AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Merck and Pfizer as well as some smaller biotech companies and even some generic manufacturers in India.
They say that governments must work with companies to fight the problem of antimicrobial resistance, in which many germs are no longer killed by common antibiotics and in some cases even by last-ditch options, turning once-treatable infections into life-threatening events.
Many are aware that the number of new antibiotics being approved has dwindled over the last two decades, because of scientific challenges as well as financial ones. Many big pharmaceutical companies, including some of those that signed the new declaration, have de-emphasized or dropped development of antibiotics as they are only taken for a short period of time and generally have low prices, as compared to drugs for more chronic diseases.
The Declaration to fight antibiotic superbugs
The declaration calls for “prompt reimbursement” at prices that reflect the real value of antibiotics and says that other “transformational commercial models” might be needed to spur development and also to cut down on unnecessary use of antibiotics, which contributes to the development of antimicrobial resistance. One idea that was floated is to have governments or a global organization pay a drug company a big lump sum when an antibiotic is developed.
The declaration also calls for enhanced use of diagnostic tests that can rapidly identify the infecting organism. That can help make sure, for instance, that antibacterial drugs are not used needlessly to treat a viral infection, for which they would not work.
Congress has taken steps to support the development of antibiotics, in 2012 they passed the GAIN Act, standing for Generating Antibiotic Incentives Now, which provided five extra years of protection from generic competition for certain antibiotics and also made it easier for new antibiotics to win approval from the Food and Drug Administration.
In a NY Times article, Allan Coukell, an antibiotics expert and senior director of health programs at the Pew Charitable Trusts, said what was most noteworthy in the declaration was that the companies were jointly acknowledging industry’s responsibility for helping to make sure antibiotics were used properly.
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