Lack of access to generic antibiotics and antifungals is an overlooked issue in AMR
Signs of progress by pharma against superbugs, yet little movement to address access
The cornerstone of modern medicine is at stake
Antibacterials and antifungals are essential for combatting infectious diseases across the world; if these drugs become ineffective due to resistance – and if replacement drugs are not developed and approved – then the effects on public health will be severe.
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is rising faster than expected. The combination of more superbugs and inadequate treatment is brewing up a lethal cocktail that threatens to unleash spiralling levels of drug resistance, driven by natural selection.
Good practice is becoming more common in the actions taken by pharmaceutical companies to limit the threat of AMR. This is most notable in the plans to ensure wider access to and responsible use of future products, as well as in the steps taken to curb the release of antibacterial waste into the environment. In stewardship, generic medicine manufacturers are taking a more active role. However, all companies miss opportunities to improve access LMICs, where the need is greatest and where people face the greatest threat from superbug infections.
A complex global issue such as AMR can only be tackled through collaborative, coordinated action. With tried and tested policies and practices in the playbook, the pharmaceutical industry must now accelerate its efforts against this global health security threat, with support from policymakers and investors, and through partnerships.
Big Pharma has a major stake in curbing AMR
The AMR pandemic can be brought to a halt, and the pharmaceutical industry has a central role to play. We know what needs to be done to counter this threat. There are four key ways in which Big Pharma companies can take action to limit AMR:
Increase and sustain R&D investment
In R&D, the unwavering priority is for companies to deepen their investment and engagement in antibacterial and antifungal R&D, with a focus on pathogens in the highest threat categories, and to further tailor the detail and specificity of stewardship and access plans.
Limit antibacterial waste from manufacturing
Companies that operate manufacturing sites can ensure the levels of antibacterial residues present in wastewaters do not exceed limits that are considered safe. It is key that pharma companies leverage their positions in the supply chain and extend these standards to suppliers as well.
Deliver appropriate access to life-saving medicines and vaccines
Industry has two core priorities: establish a continuous and local supply of high-quality medicines, and to develop and implement tailored strategies for access to specific products for underserved populations in a wider range of low- and middle-income countries.
Avoid overuse and misuse of antimicrobial medicines
Pharma companies are strongly encouraged to fully and consistently decouple incentives for sales agents from sales volumes, either by avoiding the use of sales agents altogether, or by removing the financial incentive linked to sales volumes.
Learm more about how pharmaceutical companies perform on AMR BenchmarkRead more
How we drive awareness and action
At the Access to Medicine Foundation, we apply our model for change to stimulate and guide pharmaceutical companies to improve access to medicine and limit the spread of drug-resistant infections.
The Antimicrobial Resistance Benchmark takes an in-depth look at how the pharmaceutical industry is responding to the challenge of drug-resistant infections. It examines the behaviour of 17 companies with a major stake in the anti-infectives space: eight large research-based pharmaceutical companies and nine generic medicine manufacturers. Our research reports focus on how pharmaceutical companies and key stakeholders address international priorities on AMR. Using our insights, companies and stakeholders can propagate best practices and identify where more needs to be done.
Those facing the highest risk of infection and the highest rates of drug resistance have the hardest time getting the antibiotics they need. To redress this lack of equity, pharma must expand its focus beyond stewardship and the hunt for replacement antibiotics. Access to these new medicines, as well as those already on the market, must get the same level of attention.
As concerns over environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues grow across all industry sectors, more and more investors are actively pushing for pharmaceutical companies to demonstrate a truly sustainable profile. Our systematic analyses offer pharma companies a valuable framework for designing and improving their access strategies, while also facilitating constructive communication between investors and boards.
We also work with investors directly, helping them to engage pharma companies through roundtable discussions, research launches, collective calls to action and collaborative engagements. We support investors in making investment decisions, providing insights based on independent and reliable evidence. Launched in 2020, the Investor Action on Antimicrobial Resistance initiative focuses on the role of capital markets in tackling the global threat of rising drug-resistant infections.
Bringing about large-scale change in the pharma industry is no small challenge – but each positive step has the potential for huge impact.