Tackling antimicrobial resistance (AMR) needs to be firmly established as a ‘top five policy priority’ for the Government, says the Health and Social Care Committee in its latest report.
No new classes of antibiotics have been developed for decades. Investment in basic scientific research is essential but so too is the investment by pharmaceutical companies in further development and bringing products to the market.
New antibiotics initially are only prescribed very sparingly rather than as a first line treatment during their patent lives, thereby reducing their profitability compared with other meds.
Options to address this market failure include changes to patent law and changes to the ways that pharmaceutical companies are reimbursed for new antimicrobial medicines.
Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, Chair of the Committee, says: “In six-months we want to see tangible progress on implementing practical policies to reverse the worrying exodus from AMR research and development and both government and industry should play their part in tackling this issue.”
The report notes that UK prescribing levels are still approximately double that of the Netherlands, Sweden and the Baltic States. There must be a rapid review and withdrawal of clinically unnecessary secondary care prescribing is needed.
Digital health tools for clinicians and policymakers can dramatically help to reduce the threat of antimicrobial resistance. But the variation in the uptake of best practice is unacceptable.
A single organisation should be given responsibility for co-ordinating clinical decision support systems across the NHS, and ensuring they prompt evidence-based prescribing of antimicrobials, as well as other medicines.
In terms of Brexit, the Government must make a clear commitment that any future trade deals will require any meat and dairy produce imported into the UK to meet at least the same standards relating to antibiotic use which apply to meat and dairy products produced in the EU.
The strategy should also include commitments to establish safe discharge levels for human waste, agricultural waste and pharmaceutical manufacturing waste, and to introduce systems to monitor and enforce them.