The superbugs can be stopped - if we put good ideas into action

At the Access to Medicine Foundation, we have been analysing how pharmaceutical companies tackle access to medicine for more than a decade. This first Antimicrobial Resistance Benchmark, published 23 January 2018, is the first independent, detailed evaluation of how pharmaceutical companies are halting the rise of drug resistance.

Drug resistance – also called antimicrobial resistance or AMR – is on the increase and it can spread fast. But if action is taken now, it can be contained. Global AMR strategies focus on improving how we all use antimicrobials, so that bacteria and other pathogens have less chance to develop resistance. These strategies must also ensure people can still get hold of these lifesaving medicines when they need them: many millions of people around the world lack reliable access to antimicrobials or to good information on how to use them.

The ‘superbug’ threat cannot be removed by one single person, organisation or sector working alone. Coordination, commitment and collaboration are key, from political leaders and policymakers to doctors, farmers and pharmaceutical executives. In recent years, the international community and the private sector have swung their collective weight behind efforts to contain AMR – these commitments now need to lead to real action, with progress toward set targets being publicly monitored. New ideas and new opportunities are also needed to limit AMR, including new ways of incentivising further action. Importantly, good practices must be shared, so that companies and other stakeholders can seize more opportunities to make change.

As a global community, we look to pharmaceutical companies to bring us safe and effective antimicrobials. It is widely acknowledged to be a challenging and commercially unattractive market, with little incentive to develop new antimicrobials. Nevertheless, a core group of companies remain committed to providing these critical medicines,with some continuing to develop innovative new products to  replace the ones that don’t work anymore. Without antibiotics, common infections will become harder to treat. Many other areas of modern medicine will become riskier, such as cancer therapy, surgery and even childbirth.

In this first AMR Benchmark, we found that almost all companies we looked at are taking some action to limit AMR. There are good practices in most areas we examined, although there is also much more to be done.

I invite you to use this first Benchmark as you review AMR strategies – use it as a book showing the good ideas now being implemented, and as a map of the opportunities to amplify current efforts to contain AMR. The power of business, the public sector and individuals to radically transform society is immense.

Jayasree K. Iyer Executive Director Access to Medicine Foundation

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View our detailed overview of each company’s performance