Rapid diagnostic tests for infections essential in battle against antimicrobial resistance

Pharmaceutical companies could be paid a lump sum to reward them for developing successful new antibiotics under proposals designed by the UK Independent Review of Antimicrobial Resistance, chaired by economist Jim O'Neill, pictured

Rapid point-of-care diagnostic tests to discover whether a patient’s prescription for an antibiotic is necessary are essential in the battle against antimicrobial resistance, according to a report by the UK government’s Review on Antimicrobial Resistance.

The report, published on 22 October 2015, calls for three things — financial incentives for companies to develop rapid diagnostic tests, a global fund to pay for more research into the benefits of the tests and further studies to support the economic argument for diagnostic testing.

“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,” the report says.

The report points to the United States where it says two-thirds of prescriptions for antibiotics written by family doctors to treat respiratory problems are inappropriate.

It also highlights the practice of giving “powerful” antibiotics “just in case” a patient’s infection is caused by a drug-resistant strain.

Chairman of the review and economist Lord Jim O’Neill says rapid diagnostics are “essential to get patients the right treatment, cut down on the huge amount of unnecessary use, and make our drugs last longer”.

Responding to the report, chief medical officer for England Dame Sally Davies says rapid diagnostics have a pivotal role to play: “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.”

The call for investment in diagnostic testing reflects one of the five objectives of the World Health Organization’s action plan on antimicrobial resistance. Its director general Margaret Chan says: “Having rapid, low-cost, and readily available diagnostics is an essential part of the solution to this urgent problem.”

The report is the latest to be released by the review ahead of its final recommendations and global action plan, which are due to be released in spring 2016.

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Citation
The Pharmaceutical Journal, October 2015;Online:DOI:10.1211/PJ.2015.20069630