Antibiotic Resistance is the Most Dangerous Market Failure in History

Cheltenham's MP, Alex Chalk, has raised concerns in Parliament about the health risks caused by the growing resistance to antibiotics (antimicrobial resistance AMR).  He described global levels of AMR and the failure of drugs companies to develop new medicines as “the most dangerous market failure in history”.

Mr Chalk explained: “Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a significant and increasing threat to public health, both here in the UK and globally. It is estimated that in the US and Europe alone, antimicrobial-resistant infections currently cause at least 50,000 deaths per year with 700,000 more dying in other areas of the world.

“If we are unable to slow the acceleration of AMR, future consequences will be worse still. The O’Neill Review on antimicrobial resistance has estimated that 10 million people a year could be dying as a result of AMR by 2050. The Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davis has said it is possible we will return to a time where 40 per cent of the population die prematurely from infections we cannot treat.“

Speaking in a Parliamentary debate on the O’Neill Review into AMR, Mr Chalk focused on the need for Governments to acknowledge the low commercial returns on new antibiotic development and intervene to ensure new medicines are developed and produced.

He said: “The World Health Organisation has made it clear, chillingly, that resistance to last resort antibiotics is present globally. So we have to act. Does my hon. Friend agree that we will not create vital new drugs until we align better the public health needs with the commercial incentives, and that governments need to correct what is the most dangerous market failure in history?”

Mr Chalk added: “Last month the World Health Organisation published a list of twelve bacteria for which new antibiotics will be needed. Some of these bacterial strains can not only fight off existing treatments, but can pass that immunity on to other bacteria.

“It’s critical that Governments ‘revitalise drug discovery’. The development of new medicines has a long lead time. It doesn’t often generate financial returns.  The onus must be on Parliament, here and abroad, support investment in antibiotic development.  We need a system that increases research and development and brings companies into the anti-infection market.

“If we are to build  a global system that addresses the current market failure, we need to support measures that bring new, successful products to market and makes them available to all who need them.''