Pfizer is the first company to share raw data on the spread of resistance
Most pharma companies publish results of their surveillance programmes. Pfizer is first to share raw data.
- Surveillance is essential for monitoring and controlling the spread of diseases and the rise of antimicrobial resistance.
- 13 pharma companies, up from 9 in 2018, collect data on the spread of resistance and the effectiveness of their medicines through AMR surveillance programmes.
The 2020 Antimicrobial Resistance Benchmark finds that pharmaceutical companies are engaged in tracking resistance in bacterial and fungal pathogens; 13 companies are running or supporting antimicrobial resistance (AMR) surveillance programmes, compared with nine in 2018. These programmes typically monitor the prevalence of drug-resistant infections, and whether or not they can be treated with specific medicines. The Benchmark identified 20 AMR surveillance programmes, compared with 19 in 2018, including nine programmes in India, which has some of the highest resistance rates globally. The programmes cover 13 out of 18 bacterial and fungal pathogens that pose the greatest AMR threat. These include drug-resistant S. pneumoniae, which is the main cause of community-acquired pneumonia and meningitis in children and the elderly.
How important are these data?
Surveillance is primarily the responsibility of governments, yet through their surveillance programmes, the pharmaceutical companies involved have unique knowledge of the resistance map, particularly where their data covers countries without national surveillance efforts. Their data and insights are valuable puzzle pieces, for example for developing treatment guidelines to aid doctors in making clinical decisions.
- Pharmaceutical companies typically monitor the spread of disease in order to understand whether their products are effective in specific regions.
- Hospitals and governments need to know where resistance is developing so they can adapt treatment guidelines and inform prescribers of antibiotics.
- Using and combining the raw data from companies’ surveillance programmes, third-party researchers can explore the potential for further research, beyond the specific questions asked by the companies themselves.
What information are companies sharing?
As in 2018, the 2020 Benchmark finds that all companies undertaking surveillance also share the results for at least one of their programmes, or state that they intend to share them once they are available. Results are being shared in peer-reviewed journals, presentations to conferences, via public health agency reports or are being made available online.
The 2020 Benchmark found that nine companies shared surveillance programme results in open-access journals or via data platforms. In a pioneering move, Pfizer has become the first company to share raw data, publishing the data from its ATLAS surveillance programme, which is active in 73 countries, on an open-access online AMR register established by the Wellcome Trust and the Open Data Institute. In 2018, GSK had reported plans to do this, but thus far has not shared its raw data with the register.
What is the practical application of surveillance data?
Insight into where resistance to specific medicines is occurring can lead to better treatment choices, by helping doctors determine which medicines are likely to be ineffective because of resistance. It can lead to more targeted pharmaceutical R&D, by guiding medicine innovators on where best to conduct clinical trials and on the best properties for the new medicines. It can support public health authorities in forecasting disease trends and planning medicine purchases.
There is significant potential for sharing raw data from other company surveillance programmes, such as GSK’s SOAR programme, spanning more than 30 countries, and Merck & Co, Inc’s SMART programme, which operates in 63 countries. The WHO’s new Global Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance System (GLASS) is being developed to analyse and report global data regularly. So far, GLASS has data from 87 countries. The companies evaluated in this Benchmark have data from 38 countries not covered by GLASS, and have data going back more than a decade for at least 11 programmes. Data could be contributed to the Global Burden of Disease study, published by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), which announced in 2018 that it will start including AMR morbidity and mortality in the study. In addition, the Wellcome Trust launched a Data Reuse Prize in November 2018 to reward researchers who come up with a new insight, tool or health application from data available in its AMR Register.