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UK leading the global fight against drug resistant bugs

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Antibiotic Resistance, GPs, Primary Care, Public Health

- Tough new targets to limit inappropriate use of antibiotics

- Commitment to halve drug-resistant infections by 2020

- New drive to encourage development of new antibiotics
The UK will lead the international fight against antimicrobial resistance (AMR) by bringing in tough new targets to limit the inappropriate use of antibiotics and cut infections from drug resistant bugs.

The Prime Minister is set to announce the measures today on behalf of Government as world leaders gather to discuss AMR at the G7 Summit in Japan.

AMR is a global challenge and Lord O’Neill’s report calls for a global response.

As a first step in our response to the report, the PM will announce today the immediate, new actions the government is taking to curb the problem. In England these include:

- Halving the inappropriate prescription of antibiotics in humans by 2020 – family doctors have already made progress with over 2.6 million fewer proscriptions in 2015-16;

- Halving the number of healthcare associated bloodstream infections that pose the biggest risk – such as E-coli - by 2020 – to help reduce demand for antibiotics;

- Setting an overall target for antibiotic use in livestock and fish farmed for food, cutting use to the level recommended by Lord O’Neill by 2018. We will also ensure introduce strict oversight of the use in animals of antibiotics which are critical for human health – including supporting restrictions or even bans where necessary;

- Working with the global finance and health community to develop a global system that rewards companies that develop new, successful antibiotics and make them available to all who need them. The UK will explore with the international community how these rewards could be financed, including through the use of private sector funding. The O’Neill report suggests that $1.6bn per year over 10 years is required to develop 15 new drugs. This is relatively small when compared to the total annual global sales of pharmaceutical products of around $1 trillion.

Over the decades, antibiotics have been overused in human and animal health and, as a result, the very bugs which they treat are starting to outsmart the drugs.

Last week, Lord O’Neill published his Independent Review on AMR, highlighting the catastrophic consequences if we do not act: 10 million deaths a year by 2050, a cumulative hit to the world economy of $100trillion, and the potential end of modern medicine as we know it.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said:

Jim O’Neill has estimated that the global cost of taking action on AMR is up to $40billion over 10 years – but this is vastly outstripped by the costs of inaction, which is potentially in the trillions, so we cannot afford not to step up to secure the future of modern medicine.

The measures to be announced today further reinforce for the international community just how serious we are about tackling AMR, and the investment we make in doing so will be money well spent in saving lives.

In response to the Jim O’Neill Independent Review, the Government will also raise awareness of the threat posed by drug-resistant bugs.

Public Health England will test a new public awareness campaign to build the evidence on how to drive real behaviour change.

England is also leading on a range of measures aimed at tackling AMR across the globe. These include:

- Investing £265m to strengthen the surveillance of antimicrobial use and resistance. This money is already making a difference in 11 countries worldwide and will be expanding in 2017;

- Using a £50m investment to kick start a global AMR innovation fund to help develop new antimicrobials along with effective diagnostic tools and vaccines; and

- Investing in the development of rapid diagnostic tests as part of the £1bn Ross Fund announced last year to ensure people get given the right drugs for the right bugs at the right time. The new tests, once proven to be effective will available in both the UK and internationally.

Public Health Minister, Jane Ellison said:

We are already seeing the impact of drug resistant infections right across our health system here in the UK. Tackling this problem is everyone’s business, doing nothing is not an option.

We know that inappropriate use of antibiotics is a key driver of these drug resistant infections. In England we are beginning to make progress, with family doctors achieving a 7% reduction in antibiotic prescribing last year.

These new goals will help to maintain this momentum.

Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies said:

I welcome the commitments made today. If we are to tackle drug resistant infections, we need to take action both here in the UK, and in collaboration with our international partners.

Today’s announcement demonstrates the importance that the UK places on tackling drug resistant infections and we must all do our bit.

Chief Veterinary Officer Nigel Gibbens said:

It’s important that we act now to start reducing antibiotic use in livestock, and our commitment to meet Lord Jim O’Neill’s suggested 50 mg/kg target overall by 2018 sets the UK well on that path.

In order to reach this industry-wide target, it is vital that we work closely with individual sectors to ensure that reductions are underpinned by improvements which focus on encouraging best practice and responsible use of antibiotics, and which ultimately safeguard animal health and welfare. To embed this, we will work with agriculture and veterinary stakeholders to agree appropriate sector-specific reduction targets by 2017.

Notes to editors:

1) The Government will respond in full to the O’Neill report in due course.

2) "Antimicrobial” is the general term for all drugs which aim to kill harmful microbes. Antibiotics are the best known of these drugs, but there are others, such as antivirals, antimalarial drugs and antifungals.

Global cost

3) Lord O’Neill’s report estimates that the total cost of taking action on AMR is $40bn over 10 years. This includes the efforts on diagnostics, a global awareness campaign and the creation of new antibiotics – which will require global investment of $16bn per decade.

Antibiotic prescribing

4) The UK has already put incentives in place to reduce prescribing of antibiotics in GP surgeries and hospitals. Last year, the AMR Quality Premium required a reduction in antibiotic prescribing in primary care of 1% of the total amount of antibiotics prescribed and 10% of broad spectrum antibiotics. Hospitals were asked to review their prescribing data to make sure antibiotics were still needed for patients.

5) These incentives helped achieve an eight percent reduction in antibiotics prescribed across England between April and December 2015.

Halving the number of gram negative infections

6) Gram-negative bacteria such as E. coli, Neisseria gonorrhoeae and pseudomonas cause a range of infections including respiratory problems, urinary tract infections and gonorrhoea.

7) Gram-negative bacteria are resistant to multiple drugs and are increasingly resistant to most available antibiotics. These bacteria have built-in abilities to find new ways to be resistant and can pass along genetic materials that allow other bacteria to become drug-resistant as well.

8) Gram-negative infections include those caused by Klebsiella, Acinetobacter, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and E. coli., as well as many other less common bacteria.

Diagnostic testing

9) The £10 million Longitude Prize fund, launched in 2014 and voted on by the UK public, will be awarded for the ‘winning’ entrant to develop a diagnostic test for bacterial infections that is accurate, rapid, affordable and easy-to-use anywhere in the world. The challenge is open for 5 years.

10) In May 2016, the Longitude Discovery Awards were launched, to provide seed funding of up to £25,000 to participants who need access to funding in order to develop their ideas on transformative, novel point-of-care diagnostics that could significantly reduce the misuse or overuse of antibiotics globally.


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