Time to join forces: The industry in the lead of the fight against AMR (Guest blog)

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is one of the greatest societal challenges of our age. Despite receiving ample warning of the potential human and economic costs of inaction, there has been limited progress to date on the part of policy-makers to address the unfavorable economic environment for antibiotics. Consequently, we have seen numerous companies pull out of antimicrobial R&D.
The AMR Action Fund launched today by over 20 pharmaceutical companies is a groundbreaking initiative that demonstrates the industry’s commitment to fight AMR with the express aim of supporting the clinical development of 2-4 novel antibiotics by the end of the decade. We recognize that collaboration is essential to overcoming this major pressing threat to public health. That is why I am proud our company - as a lead investor - is contributing $100 million to the AMR Action Fund. MSD has a longstanding commitment to preventing and treating infectious diseases. For more than 100 years, our company has played a significant role in the discovery and development of novel medicines and vaccines to combat infectious diseases, and we are one of the few biopharmaceutical companies still investing in antimicrobial R&D.
The current COVID-19 pandemic highlights the importance of innovation in health system preparedness against communicable disease threats. Not only are patients with COVID-19 at an increased risk of developing secondary bacterial infections; but the increased use of antibiotics during the pandemic could cause an acceleration in AMR.
Without new antibiotics, deaths caused by AMR could supersede those triggered by COVID-19. Already at an estimated 700,000 deaths per year[1], including some 33,000 in Europe[2], they could reach 10 million deaths by 2050[3]. And, unlike COVID-19, the threat of AMR has been known for years: it was and is predictable. The current crisis should be a wake-up call to all EU Member States as well as other nations. It is vital that we incentivize investment in anti-infectives so that we may be better prepared to face future threats. We cannot afford to be short-sighted or complacent.
While the AMR Action Fund represents a critical intervention on the part of industry - a bridge mechanism to strengthen the world’s fragile pipeline of antibiotic innovations - policy-makers must take action to fix the economic barriers impeding further investment. Market reforms are essential if we are to enable long-term sustainable investment in antibiotics. The adoption of a suite of incentives by the European Union and national governments would enable a more predictable and sustainable return on investment for companies investing in this high-risk area of medicine; thereby ensuring patients receive access to the life-saving medicines they need. The forthcoming EU Pharmaceutical Strategy should be the basis for the European Commission to submit an ambitious legislative proposal to Parliament and Council designed to promote the development of novel antibiotics in Europe.
Together, we must work to translate the current crisis into concrete action that will deliver solutions to address AMR. Industry stands ready to continue collaborating with EU decision-makers, governments and other key stakeholders in the fight against AMR. The time to act is now!

David Earnshaw

David Earnshaw joined the global pharmaceutical company MSD in early 2016 as Associate Vice President, European...
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