The first Benchmark launches at the WEF in Davos

Here’s a quick rundown of the WEF press conference about the Antimicrobial Resistance Benchmark and first responses from Davos.

Tackling antimicrobial resistance is a high global priority for 2018. That’s why Jayasree K. Iyer of the Access to Medicine Foundation presented the first Antimicrobial Resistance Benchmark at the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Focus in Davos on Tuesday 23 January. The Benchmark findings sparked discussion about the urgency of tackling drug resistance and how pharmaceutical companies can be spurred to stay in the antimicrobial market.

Jayasree Iyer: “This is a challenging market. We need more pharmaceutical companies to develop new antibiotics, medicines and vaccines to replace the ones that no longer work, and to find new responsible ways of getting them to the patient. My team and I will measure pharma companies’ responses to AMR again in two years’ time.”

Reuters TV gives a 2-minute briefing about drug resistance and the AMR Benchmark

Speaking at the WEF press conference, Jayasree reported that the Benchmark “had found more evidence of action against drug resistance than many experts expected. GSK and Johnson & Johnson provided the most evidence of broad activity, and there are generic companies that are also addressing AMR.” She pointed out that more than half of the projects in the pipeline target pathogens that pose a high risk from drug resistance, but warned that there are not enough being developed to replace the ones that are losing effectiveness.

Bedaquiline shows tackling AMR is possible
Once new antibiotics reach the market, they must be used very sparingly to minimise the opportunities for bacteria to adapt and develop resistance. As a result, there is little incentive for pharmaceutical companies to invest in antimicrobial R&D.

“Nevertheless,” said Paul Stoffels, a speaker at the press conference and Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer from Johnson & Johnson, “The Benchmark shows that it is doable for a pharmaceutical company to make new medicines for AMR and bring them to market responsibly.” He pointed to the Benchmark’s assessment of bedaquiline, Johnson & Johnson’s new medicine for multi-drug resistant tuberculosis. As reported in the Benchmark, bedaquiline has been made available in more than 100 countries, yet access is being tightly managed to ensure the medicine reaches only the patients who need it.

“We can turn the tide” says Wellcome’s Jeremy Farrar
There is more to be done. “Two years ago, we were not on the starting blocks for how to deal with this …,” said Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust, “but we will be able to turn the tide on this in the next years, including with things like this Benchmark. It sets a benchmark for where industry is. It allows industry to hold itself to account and it allows the public to hold industry to account.”

The Benchmark is being recognised as a new tool for stimulating further action by the pharmaceutical industry on AMR. Jim O’Neill led the 2014 review on AMR commissioned by the UK government. He welcomes the Benchmark for providing the data investors need to compare pharmaceutical companies’ behaviour on the AMR issue, saying “[previously], there were no readily available data by which to make comparisons.” For Dame Sally Davies, the UK’s Chief Scientific Officer, the Benchmark “can help pave the way for a transparent learning culture where best practice is shared, progress celebrated, and gaps where further work is needed are identified.”

Watch the press conference
Watch the whole press conference from the Annual Meeting at the World Economic Forum in Davos, on Tuesday 23 January:

The press conference panel
• Jayasree K. Iyer, Executive Director, Access to Medicine Foundation
• Paul Stoffels, Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, Johnson & Johnson
• Jeremy Farrar, Director, Wellcome Trust
• Julian Braithwaite, UK Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN

About the Antimicrobial Resistance Benchmark

The Antimicrobial Resistance Benchmark is the first report to systematically evaluate a cross-section of the pharmaceutical industry to identify which ones are doing more to tackle AMR. The Benchmark compares 30 pharmaceutical companies, including large R&D-based pharmaceutical companies, generic medicine manufacturers and smaller biotechnology companies. These are the key players in the antimicrobial market, including those with large R&D divisions, major market presence and specific expertise in developing new antibiotics and vaccines. We have mapped their action in antimicrobial R&D and antibiotic manufacturing policy, as well as the steps they take to ensure antimicrobials are available and being used wisely. The first Antimicrobial Resistance Benchmark was published on Tuesday 23 January 2018. The next version of the Benchmark will be released in late 2018.

About the Access to Medicine Foundation

The Access to Medicine Foundation is a non-profit organisation based in the Netherlands. It aims to advance access to medicine in low- and middle-income countries by stimulating and guiding the pharmaceutical industry to play a greater role in improving access to medicine. The Foundation is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the UK Department for International Development. For ten years, the Foundation has been building consensus on the role for the pharmaceutical industry in improving access to medicine and vaccines. It published its first benchmark of industry activity in this area in 2008, in the first Access to Medicine Index. The fifth Access to Medicine Index has been published in 2016.