Jim O’Neill’s article: Ten ways to kill our antibiotics complacency

The following is an article about Jim O’Neill’s work on worrying problem of anti- biotic.

He is working with China on this subject.

Stephen.

Ten ways to kill our antibiotics complacency

Jim O’Neill

Published at 12:01AM, April 21 2015

Public ignorance about the worldwide danger of superbugs could cost millions of lives

If we cannot find new, more effective antibiotics and reduce our need for them, it’s likely that up to ten million people a year across the world will die prematurely by 2050 and the cumulative loss of global GDP between now and then could be $100 trillion, more than the current size of the world economy.

Last year, David Cameron asked me to lead a review into antimicrobial resistance (AMR), which will propose global solutions to tackle this problem. It will still be relevant whether or not there is a change of government next month, when its findings will be presented to the prime minister — whoever he may be.

Ahead of our final report, here are ten things that need to be done:

Embark on a massive global PR exercise I was speaking at a big private equity event and asked how many of the 300-plus audience knew what AMR is. Two hands went up. When I expanded it to “antimicrobial resistance”, it was about 30 hands. A mass social media campaign around the world is needed. While antibiotics are crucial to helping us maintain healthy lives, they are not a panacea. We need to stop using them like sweets and only take them when absolutely necessary. Then make sure we take the recommended dosage and not stop as soon as we start to feel better.

Wash our hands more It may seem obvious but one of the simplest and most powerful ways to avoid bugs is still to wash our hands regularly with soap, especially after a visit to the toilet. Premier league football clubs should take the lead with a major upgrade to their toilet facilities.

Stop using antibiotics for animal growth promoters In many countries, the biggest problem is not the drugs we use ourselves but what we give to livestock, partly in an effort to improve the output of our agricultural industries. This is a huge challenge in the US, India and China and will become even bigger as emerging economies grow faster and the demand for meat catches up. Shouldn’t we restrict — or even ban — antibiotics as an animal growth promoter?

Explore the scope for using vaccines Can vaccines or other alternative therapies be developed to give humans and animals sufficient antibodies to preclude the need for regular antibiotics? Therapies can also be created by revisiting failed antibiotics or combining existing ones to break drug resistance.

Dramatically improve the surveillance of resistance The paucity of data around the world about the true state of resistance, not only in the emerging world but also developed countries, is astonishing. In last month’s budget the chancellor announced a £195 million fund for helping emerging countries to develop their surveillance systems. The UK, other countries and major donors should make this a priority.

State-of-the-art diagnostics When our lives are increasingly spent on hand-held gadgets, measuring our calorie count or sleep patterns, it’s time we had such technology in GP surgeries. It would stop doctors guessing what we need and stop us demanding antibiotics. Let’s implement “Google for doctors” all over the world.

Improve the numbers and pay of those studying AMR It is striking how few people work in the field of antimicrobial resistance compared with other areas of medical research and how (relatively) poorly they are paid. This is easy to solve assuming governments are as serious about solving the problem as they claim.

A global innovation fund There has been an alarming drop in innovation over the past three decades. Low prices for drugs and restricted demand makes it less appealing for Big Pharma. This in turn acts as a disincentive to venture capital and start-up firms. We propose a global fund to finance more research, fund more start-ups and take risks. The funding should involve the pharma industry itself.

A priority for China’s G20 leadership China is hosting the G20 in 2016, a novel and historic moment. Solving AMR should be at the top of their agenda given how big an issue it is for China itself.

Let’s have some big new drugs Developing ten highly effective drugs in the next decade or so would cost less than $25 billion a decade. While this is a lot of money, it is only 0.03 per cent of global GDP and not much more than double the $10 billion that one leading global pharmaceutical company announced recently it would spend on buying back its own shares in just one year.

Many people have warned me of the complexity of solving the AMR problem. If we could act in these ten ways, the difficulty will fade.

Jim O’Neill is chairman of the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance and former chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management



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