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UK's prime minister creates expert panel to address antibiotic R&D 'market failure'


The UK's prime minister on Wednesday said he has created a new expert panel that will find ways to encourage the pharma industry to develop new antibiotics to combat the rise of drug-resistant infections.

In an interview with the BBC, David Cameron said the panel of global experts will be headed by economist Jim O'Neill and added that he hopes findings will be reported to next year's G7 summit, hosted by Germany.

Cameron said it was important the panel is headed by an economist to find ways to incentivise the pharma industry to produce new classes of antibiotics.

No new classes of antibiotics had been discovered for more than 25 years, said Cameron, and without such drugs, medical treatment could be sent back to "the dark ages". Common infections would become potentially fatal as they would be resistant to available antibiotics, he warned.

The independent review will be co-funded and hosted by the world's second largest medical research foundation, the Wellcome Trust, to explore the economic issues surrounding antimicrobial resistance.

Topics covered will include:

  • The development, use and regulatory environment of antimicrobials, especially antibiotics and exploring how to make investment in new antibiotics more attractive to pharmaceutical companies and other funding bodies
  • The balance between effective and sustainable incentives for investment and the need to conserve antimicrobial drugs so they remain effective for as long as possible
  • How governments and other funders can stimulate investment in new antimicrobials and timeframes and mechanisms for implementation
  • Increasing international cooperation and support for action, including much closer working with low and middle income countries on this issue.

Cameron said: "There is a development problem, there is a market failure. The pharmaceutical industry hasn't been developing new classes of antibiotics so we need to fix that market failure; we need to create some incentives so that's exactly what Jim O'Neill's going to be doing.

"He's going to be looking at how to create a market for these new drugs to be produced. At the same time, he is going to be taking a lot of medical advice and scientific advice about how we deal with the problem of these infections that are mutating to become resistant to antibiotics."

Cameron noted that finding new incentives had proved successful in stimulating the pharma industry to develop treatments for orphan diseases.

"You can create new incentives and new structures to encourage pharmaceutical companies to invest, for instance there were a whole series of so-called orphan diseases where you have relatively small numbers of people affected by debilitating conditions and new structures were put in place to incentivise companies to invest in those and come up with drugs that would help those people."

"I don't want to prejudge what Jim O'Neill and his group will do but they will look at ways to create incentives so that we can solve this development problem."


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