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Big pharma targets threat of superbugs

This news is cited from Nicosia Business Review Worldwide, linked to: http://nicosiamoneynews.com/2016/09/20/big-pharma-targets-threat-of-superbugs/.

It is originally published by Finacial Times, on September 20, 2016.

Big pharma targets threat of superbugs

Big pharmaceutical companies have signed an agreement to tackle the spread of superbugs as the UN prepares to discuss antimicrobial resistance.

Drugmakers including Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and AstraZeneca said the world faced a “staggering threat” from drug-resistant superbugs and agreed to abide by a voluntary code of conduct designed to address the problem.

Antimicrobial resistance describes the phenomenon where antibiotics and other infection-fighting drugs no longer work effectively because bacteria have developed the ability to fight back.

The majority of scientists believe that if AMR is allowed to spread unchecked then common infectious diseases will become untreatable, reversing more than a century of progress in which many deadly illnesses were all but wiped out.

The pharma groups pledged to tackle pollution caused by factories making antibiotics, which often dump toxic waste in waterways, creating a breeding ground for the kind of bacterial interaction that can cause drug resistance.

They also agreed to educate the public and doctors about the prudent use of antibiotics and to remove incentives that encourage sales teams to sell them in larger volumes, amid fears that over-prescription has made bacteria less receptive to medicines.

The drugmakers said they would take steps to make antibiotics more affordable in low- and middle-income countries that stand to lose the most from a surge in AMR.

On Monday, the World Bank warned in a report that unchecked AMR would wreak havoc on the global economy of a scale similar the financial crisis in 2008.

By 2050, annual global gross domestic product would fall by up to 3.8 per cent, with low-income countries losing up to 5 per cent, according to the report.

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“Unlike the financial crisis, there would be no prospects for a cyclical recovery in the medium term as the costly impacts of AMR would persist,” the authors warned.

Also among the 13 companies that have signed up to the accord are GlaxoSmithKline, Allergan, Roche, Merck, Novartis and Sanofi.

Lord O’Neill, the UK Treasury minister and former Goldman Sachs economist who led the review on the threat of AMR, said: “The road map launched in New York this week shows that a growing number of pharmaceutical companies are taking this seriously.”

The agreement comes as the UN General Assembly prepares to discuss AMR during a high-level meeting on Wednesday — a sign of how seriously world leaders are taking the problem.

The assembly has put a health topic on the agenda on only three previous occasions: to discuss HIV, Ebola and noncommunicable diseases such as heart disease and cancer.