Investment incentive needed for new antibiotics

Governments around the world must work with pharmaceutical companies to create the right policy environment for research into urgently-needed new antibiotics, Medicines Australia chief executive Dr Brendan Shaw said today.

Last month the World Health Organisation issued a new warning about the global spread of multidrug-resistant bacteria.

Meanwhile, medical journal The Lancet has identified a new gene that enables some types of bacteria to be resistant to almost all antibiotics.

“This has serious implications for Australia, where 7000 people die each year from drug-resistant bacteria such as golden staph infections,” Dr Shaw said. “That’s almost 20 Australians a day.

“Governments must start giving serious thought to how they can work with pharmaceutical companies to encourage investment in new antibiotics in response to the growing threat of superbugs.

“The London School of Economics recently highlighted the reasons the pharmaceutical industry is not commercialising enough new antibiotics. They noted several barriers to investment that have been caused by governments in countries like Australia.

“Incentives for commercialising promising technologies are one option to encourage companies to invest more, but incentives are no panacea.

“Other one-off incentives such as extending patent terms, R&D tax credits and commercialisation funds could help in providing financial incentives to commercialise antibiotics after they’ve proved to be effective.

“Governments should also look carefully at how they assess the prices they are prepared to pay for new antibiotics.

“Comparing new medicines against cheap, old generics can lead to industry avoiding further investment in a therapeutic area such as antibiotics and investing instead in other areas where the return is greater.

“In cancer, governments have been prepared to pay for new treatments as they are developed. The result is that today the industry has over 800 new cancer medicines in development compared with 83 antibiotics.

“It is alarming that the current generation of Australians has to make do with the same antibiotics our parents used 30 years ago. Patients deserve better than that.”


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