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Limited Industry Progress Seen on Microbial Resistance

Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae

Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae bacteria (CDC.gov)

18 January 2018. A pharmaceutical industry coalition documents some advances after 2 years in developing better products and practices against antimicrobial resistance, but progress is limited and uneven. The AMR Industry Alliance, based in Geneva, Switzerland, issued its first progress report today.

The report, compiled by the consulting firm SustainAbility, highlights the scope of the growing problem posed by microorganisms becoming resistant to current antibiotics and other drugs to treat infections. Some 700,000 deaths each year are attributed to pathogens causing tuberculosis, HIV, malaria, and staph infections that develop a resistance to current treatments. The UN, among others, in 2016 called for a global campaign by governments and other sectors to address the problem.

The AMR Industry Alliance is the life science industry contribution to the cause, outlined in a statement by the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations in January 2016, called the Davos Declaration, signed by more than 100 companies and trade groups. In September 2016, 13 pharmaceutical companies prepared an additional document called the Industry Roadmap spelling out 4 broad goals in this effort including more access to treatments and diagnostics, reduced environmental impact, measures to ensure antibiotics get to only patients needing them, and more collaborations between industry and the public sector.

The new report shows in 2016 companies invested at least $2 billion in research and development considered relevant to the problem of antimicrobial resistance. Participants in the initiative are still in the early stages of development for most new products, including 10 new antibiotics, 13 new vaccine candidates, and 18 proposed diagnostics. But the prospects for continued investment are uneven. About 7 in 10 respondents (72%) expect to increase their investments in work on antimicrobial resistance, but 3 in 10 participants (30%), including about half of the larger drug makers, say they would reduce their efforts if no new incentives are provided or business models remain unchanged.

Other parts of the AMR Industry Alliance program show somewhat more progress. Large majorities of respondents, 70 to 90 percent, say they promote appropriate use of antibiotics by providing education to patients, conduct surveillance of antibiotic resistance, or are looking into their own promotional practices to help limit inappropriate use of these drugs.

At the same time half or more of responding companies are collaborating with other sectors to expand access to antibiotics where they’re needed. Part of this effort involves monitoring and addressing delays or disruptions in the supply chain. In addition, the companies signing the Industry Roadmap say they plan to implement best practices to reduce the environmental impact of manufacturing antibiotics.

One indicator of the limited progress by industry is the low response rate among the 101 signers of the Davos Declaration 2 years ago. Only 36 companies responded to the alliance’s inquiries, including all 11 large drug makers taking part in the initiative. While half of the generic drug makers responded, only 1 in 3 of diagnostics developers, and a quarter of the smaller companies provided data for the report.

The report notes, “The Alliance will actively support member companies in filling in the gaps ahead of the next update. This will include greater outreach to non-responding companies, as well as efforts to share best practices and supporting materials.”

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