Antimicrobial resistance is a deadlier threat than cancer, UK chancellor warns

Front-line NHS services in England are to get a £3.8bn increase in the next financial year, the Chancellor George Osborne (pictured) announced on 24 November 2015, on the eve of the government’s spending review

Antimicrobial resistance will pose “an even greater threat to mankind than cancer” does today unless coordinated global action is taken, UK chancellor George Osborne has warned.

He addressed delegates at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington DC on 15 April 2016 to discuss global action to tackle the growing problem of antimicrobial resistance. He said 10 million people could die globally every year by 2050, as a result of antibiotics becoming powerless against common infections — more than currently die from cancer.

This would have an ‘enormous economic cost’, he said, as it is predicted that by 2050, antimicrobial resistance could reduce global GDP by up to 3.5 per cent — a cumulative cost of $100 trillion.

“We have to dramatically shift incentives for pharmaceutical companies and others to create a long-term solution to this problem, with new rewards, funded globally, that support the development of new antibiotics and ensure access to antibiotics in the developing world,” he said.

“To achieve a long-term solution we also need better rapid diagnostics that will cut the vast amounts of unnecessary antibiotic use.”

In 2014, UK prime minister David Cameron commissioned economist Lord O’Neill to lead a Review on Antimicrobial Resistance and look at the increasing global threat it poses and come up with potential solutions.

The review has proposed that the international community create and fund ‘market entry rewards’, large lump sums paid to a pharmaceutical company, or set of companies, that successfully get a new antibiotic or diagnostic to market to move away from the need to recoup development costs through sales. O’Neill and his team will publish their final recommendations in May 2016.


Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, April 2016, Vol 296, No 7888;296(7888):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2016.20201017

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