Latest Jim O’Neill report calls for new rapid diagnostics to stop unnecessary use of antibiotics

23 Oct 2015

Written by Longitude Prize

In a report published today, Jim O’Neill’s Review on Antimicrobial Resistance sets out proposals to transform antibiotic use through better use of rapid diagnostics over the next 5 years. This is the latest in a series of reports by the Review on AMR, before their final recommendations setting out a global package of actions in the late Spring of 2016.

The Review on AMR explains why healthcare systems are not embracing the use of rapid diagnostics that exist today and why investment in new and better ones is lagging. It is cheaper and quicker for individuals to go straight to using an antibiotic without checking with a diagnostic test. In doing so, our individual decisions do not reflect the immense benefits to society of using rapid tests to stop unnecessary use of antibiotics.

The report proposes three interventions to make a compelling case for governments and healthcare systems to support innovative rapid diagnostics:

  1. Diagnostic Market Stimulus (DMS) pots to overcome the mismatch between the cost and benefits of diagnostics. The DMS would provide a revenue stream for developers of the most useful products to stop unnecessary use of antibiotics.
  2. Jump start further innovation in diagnostics by getting more money into early stage research. Our last paper discussed a global AMR Innovation Fund of around $2 billion over five years to help boost funding for blue-sky research. As well as accepting bids for new drugs, this should be open to bids from companies or academics developing rapid diagnostics that help combat AMR.
  3. Help build the long-term economic case for rapid diagnostics. Usually, the company developing the technology bears the costs of clinical studies, which can be prohibitively expensive, especially for small companies. For health-care systems, however, they would amount to a sensible and affordable investment, to reduce unnecessary use of antibiotics.

The report also points to prizes as a good incentive to the development of new antibiotics. It also mentions the role of inducements like the Longitude Prize:

“They have reinvigorated this space by giving far more attention to AMR and the important role that diagnostics can play in tackling it, which has been incredibly valuable.”

Read the Report - Rapid Diagnostics: Stopping unnecessary use of antibiotics

The report emphasises we need new technology to support changes in individual behaviours and a viable financial proposition to make innovation happen. For material progress to happen over the next five years, healthcare systems need to leapfrog to using rapid diagnostics wherever possible, before using an antibiotic.

Dr Margaret Chan, Director General of the World Health Organisation, said:
One of the five objectives of WHO’s new global action plan on antimicrobial resistance is to increase investments in diagnostics. Today, antibiotics are rarely prescribed based on a definitive diagnosis. Diagnostic tests can show whether or not an antibiotic is actually needed, and which one. Having rapid, low-cost, and readily available diagnostics is an essential part of the solution to this urgent problem.”

Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer for England and co-chaif of our Prize Advisory Panel, said:
“As this report from Lord O’Neill clearly sets out, rapid diagnostics have a pivotal role to play in the fight against drug resistant bacteria. Without them, it is much harder for prescribers to know with any certainty whether an antibiotic will treat the infection. We need coordinated international action to help spur innovation and improve antibiotic use before it is too late.”

Baron Professor Peter Piot, Director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, member of our Committee and co-chair of our Prize Advisory Panel, said:
“Just last year antibiotics won the public vote to become the focus of the £10 million Longitude Prize, a challenge of up to five years to find an accurate, affordable, rapid and easy-to-use diagnostic test to improve antibiotic use. As the Jim O’Neill report shows, rapid diagnostics are the key but they have to be quick, cheap, accurate and accessible to all health settings if they are to slash the growth of resistance.The race is on to find the solution. We’re calling on people from around the globe to work on new ideas to tackle AMR and enter the Longitude Prize.”

The UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, commissioned the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance in July of last year to address the growing global problem of drug-resistant infections. It is Chaired by Lord Jim O’Neill and backed by the Wellcome Trust and the UK Government.