UK launches antibiotic buying scheme to tackle AMR

The NHS is launching a “pioneering scheme” to provide new antibiotics to patients by offering to pay pharma companies upfront for their work.

The move will help to tackle antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and help to protect UK patients.

The NHS is offering 2 contracts to pay pharma companies at the start of their work for access to innovative antibiotics, incentivising them to bring new classes of the drugs to patients across the UK for the first time in almost 30 years.

Of particular interest are antibiotics that can provide alternative treatment options for serious infections, such as bloodstream infections, sepsis and hospital-acquired pneumonia.

The high cost and low returns associated with antibiotic research and development makes it commercially unattractive. This is why the drugs will be paid for by the world’s first ‘subscription-style’ payment model for antibiotics and will be made available to UK patients as soon as possible, potentially as early as 2022.

“This new way of buying antibiotics for patients in the NHS breaks down restrictive barriers to offer companies a vital springboard to foster innovation and develop potentially life-saving new products,” said Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

Professor Dame Sally Davies, UK Special Envoy on Antimicrobial Resistance, said: “The payment model, which was launched in July 2019, will pay pharmaceutical companies upfront for access to their antibiotic product, based on a product’s value to the NHS, rather than how much is used.

“This aims to incentivise companies to invest in researching and developing new antibiotics, helping secure much-needed alternative treatment options for NHS patients.”

Two drugs that have proven to be both safe and effective will be selected to undergo health technology assessment (HTA) by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) throughout 2021 using adapted methods for antimicrobials. The HTA will be used to decide the level of the subscription payment.

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