HEALTH Drug-resistant infections must be a priority, say MPs

TACKLING antimicrobial resistance (AMR) needs to become a top-five policy priority for the Government in order to help prevent the virtual loss of modern medicine, MPs have said.

A report by the health and social care committee said it wants to see “tangible progress” over the next six months to “reverse the worrying exodus” from research into AMR.

Antimicrobial-resistant infections claim at least 50,000 lives each year in Europe and the United States, and 700,000 lives globally.

These figures are expected to rise dramatically over the next 30 years, with the death toll estimated to be 10 million deaths per year by 2050 – higher than the number of deaths from cancer and diabetes combined.

No new classes of antibiotics have been developed for decades. Drug companies do not see them as profitable, because new antibiotics are only initially prescribed very sparingly rather than as a first-line treatment during their patent lives. The report says that, while in developed health systems it is possible to access alternative second- or third-line treatments when patients develop a resistant infection, mortality rates and costs of treatment are likely to be approximately double for a drug-resistant infection, generating an estimated cost to the NHS of £180 million a year.

It said options to address the market failure include changes to patent law and to the ways that pharmaceutical companies are reimbursed for new antimicrobial medicines.

In primary care, there has been a 13 per cent reduction in the number of prescriptions for antibiotics in the past five years, but there has been less progress in secondary care.

Prescribing levels in Britain are still around double that of the Netherlands, Sweden and the Baltic states. The report said a reduction in clinically unnecessary secondary care prescribing is clearly needed and that digital health tools can dramatically help to reduce the threat of antimicrobial resistance.

Grahame White