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England's government pledges to stimulate investment in antibiotics


England's government has pledged to tackle "market failure issues" that are slowing development of new antibiotics in a five-year antimicrobial resistance strategy published today.

In the document published on the Department of Health website, the government pledged to improve regulatory pathways for new antibiotics and provide new incentives for R&D.

But according to the document, "there is a need to do more to address the commercial viability and market failure issues that are hampering investment in antibiotic development."

The strategy was drawn up following a warning from England's chief medical officer in March that resistance to antibiotics poses a "catastrophic threat".

In the document the department pledges to "harmonise regulatory regimes" for licensing and approval of antibiotics, especially clinical trial requirements and calls for more public-private investment in their development.

There is also a need to develop new approaches to prevent and treat infection, such as use of pre and probiotics to strengthen the immune response to bacterial infection.

The document also points to the importance of collaboration between international organisations to share information and technological breakthroughs, such as the Innovative Medicines Initiative joint collaboration between European pharma and the EU.

Life sciences companies and academics must work together and share information about targets in the pre-competitive phase of development, according to the document.

It calls for a shorter, more efficient clinical development process, without making specific recommendations.

The government has already taken steps to simplify the clinical trial approval process through such measures as the creation of the Health Research Authority, a single body for clinical trial ethical approval.
The government also pledged to:
  • Provide funding of up to four million pounds to set up a new National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Health Protection Research Unit, focusing on antimicrobial resistance.
  • Collect better data on the resistance of bugs so we can track them more effectively, find the most resistant bacteria and step in earlier where there is resistance to antibiotics.
  • Improve education and training around the prescribing of antibiotics to reduce inappropriate usage.
  • Improve prevention and management of infections in people and in animals; including through better hygiene and monitoring of bacteria in medical and community settings, and through better farming practices.
Stephen Whitehead, chief executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) trade body called for more detail in a response statement.

He said: " It is vitally important that a realistic plan of action is agreed so that all partners can work together to deliver upon the strategic objectives that are outlined within the strategy, building on the success of initiatives that are already in train."


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