Global pharma industry calls for collective action on antimicrobial resistance

21 Jan 2016
Written by
Longitude Prize

More than 80 leading international pharmaceutical, generics, diagnostics and biotechnology companies, as well as key industry bodies, have come together to call on governments and industry to work in parallel in taking comprehensive action against drug-resistant infections – socalled ‘superbugs’ – with a joint declaration launched today at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The statement sets out for the first time how governments and industry need to work together to support sustained investment in the new products needed to beat the challenges of rising drug resistance.

The Declaration on Combating Antimicrobial Resistance – drafted and signed by 85 companies and nine industry associations across 18 countries (at the time of publication) – represents a major milestone in the global response to these challenges, with commercial drug and diagnostic developers for the first time agreeing on a common set of principles for global action to support antibiotic conservation and the development of new drugs, diagnostics, and vaccines.

The industry is calling on governments around the world to now go beyond existing statements of intent and take concrete action, in collaboration with companies, to support investment in the development of antibiotics, diagnostics, vaccines, and other products vital for the prevention and treatment of drug-resistant infections.

Read the full declaration

In particular, the Declaration supports a continuation of efforts towards improved conservation of antibiotics, including a call for improved uptake of rapid point-of-care diagnostics to improve how antibiotics are prescribed, and changes to incentive structures within health systems that directly reward doctors, pharmacists and veterinarians for prescribing antibiotics in greater volumes.

The signatory companies call on governments to work with them to develop new and alternative market structures that provide more dependable and sustainable market models for antibiotics, and to commit the funds needed to implement them. These mechanisms are needed to provide appropriate incentives (coupled with safeguards to support antibiotic conservation) for companies to invest in R&D to overcome the formidable technical and scientific challenges of antibiotic discovery and development. These include mechanisms to ensure that, where appropriate, the pricing of antibiotics more adequately reflects the benefits they bring; and novel payment models that reduce the link between the profitability of an antibiotic and the volume sold. An integral part of these models is a reduced need for promotional activity by companies.  

As well as calling for continued progress by governments on these fronts, the Declaration sets out a commitment to further action on drug resistance by its signatories. These span across three broad areas:

  • Reducing the development of drug resistance. The companies commit to encouraging better and more appropriate use of new and existing antibiotics, including through work that supports the antibiotic stewardship principles set out by the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Action Plan on antimicrobial resistance (AMR), and via improved education of clinicians. This support extends to promoting more judicious use of antibiotics in livestock, as part of a ‘one health’ approach.
  • Increasing investment in R&D that meets global public health needs. Recognising the need to increase research into new antibiotics, diagnostics, vaccines and other alternative treatments, the companies commit to a continuation and extension of collaborative initiatives between industry, academia and public bodies to improve how R&D in the field is done and provide greater opportunities for the scientific barriers to antibiotic discovery to be overcome.
  • Improve access to high-quality antibiotics for all. In light of the gaps that remain in global access to our existing antibiotics and vaccines, and the importance of ensuring that new generations of products are available to all those who need them, the signatories commit to supporting initiatives aimed at ensuring affordable access to antibiotics in all parts of the world, at all levels of income.

Read the full declaration

By bringing together such a wide range of companies in this unprecedented way, the Declaration provides a valuable roadmap to guide further collaborative efforts between industry, governments and NGOs in the global fightback against AMR. The Declaration will be updated every two years, to take account of the evolving global landscape of AMR and changing challenges and priorities. It remains open to accept new signatory companies and bodies at any time, with a complete list maintained on the Review on AMR’s website.

Quotes about the declaration

Dame Sally Davies
Chief Medical Officer for England
Longitude Committee and Longitude Prize Advisory Panel Co-chair
“I welcome this Declaration as a clear sign of industry’s collective commitment to beating the threat of antimicrobial resistance, both by reducing unnecessary use of antibiotics and supporting the development of new ones." 

“A secure supply of new antibiotics for the future is clearly of vital importance, and I look forward to seeing an advancement of discussions between companies and governments on how we build new and sustainable market models that properly incentivise the discovery and development of new antibiotics, whilst ensuring affordable access to these crucial drugs for all those who need them in all parts of the world.”

Prof. Alice Roberts
Professor of Public Engagement in Science at the University of Birmingham, clinical anatomist, author, broadcaster
Longitude Committee Member
“If we’re to tackle this massive challenge of drug resistant infections, we need governments, industry and academia to work together effectively. We need better, quicker ways of diagnosing infections, which is what the £10m Longitude Prize is all about. But of course we also need new drugs. It’s fantastic to see so many companies coming together to sign this new declaration - committing themselves to reinvigorating R&D into antibiotics.”

Prof. Baron Peter Piot
Director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
Longitude Committee and Longitude Prize Advisory Panel Co-chair
"This declaration is extremely positive news for the growing problem of resistance to antibiotics. Collaboration between industry, the public sector and governments is crucial to the feasibility of a novel and rapid point of care diagnostic test, which the £10m Longitude Prize is looking for, being able to reach communities in the variety of health systems across the world. The commitment to improving equal access for antibiotics and diagnostics is a crucial part of this issue."

Prof. Dame Kay Davies
Professor of Anatomy at Oxford University
Longitude Committee Member
"This declaration is a great step forward for the problem of drug resistant infections. Collaboration across sectors and disciplines will stimulate new innovation into the development of diagnostics as well as new antibiotics, which is greatly needed to tackle such an urgent and important problem. Initiatives like the £10 Longitude Prize will greatly benefit from improved collaboration, which we are indeed starting to see."

Geoff Mulgan
Nesta CEO
Longitude Committee Member
"This declaration will greatly help the growing movement to tackle resistance to antibiotics, and boost the many firms and people working to win the Longitude Prize for a novel and rapid point of care diagnostic test - one of the crucial building blocks for an effective global strategy on AMR."