Expert insight

The imminent threat of AMR and why we must prepare

18 November 2021
  • Thomas Cueni Director General

AMR is a silent pandemic that needs attention now. Globally, we need to take action or it will continue to claim lives.

It’s been 18 months since the world was struck by the COVID-19 pandemic. Though vaccines and treatments were developed in less than a year, politicians and experts will meet at a special World Health Assembly this November to discuss future pandemic preparedness.

So, it is somewhat ironic that it is during the same month that we mark the silent pandemic of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). World Antimicrobial Awareness Week sounds the alarm on the devastating global impact of drug-resistant infections, which have the power to set back modern medicine by 100 years.

We know that more than 700,000 people die each year due to AMR. By 2050, AMR could claim as many as 10 million lives annually and cost the global economy up to US$100 trillion.

No market, no incentives

In response to COVID-19, the G7 put forward a vision for a 100 Day Mission to respond to future pandemics, making available diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines within 100 days of an emerging health threat.

However, in the years that it has been on the G7 agenda, no bold vision has been proposed to develop new antibiotics that can be used as a last resort when all existing antibiotics have proven to be ineffective against bacteria. The previous decades in antibiotic innovation have been sparce, as there is no market to incentivise research and development for new antibiotics.

Last year, the industry stepped up and created the AMR Action Fund, the world’s largest public-private partnership supporting the development of new antibiotics. This will provide a valuable boost to innovation but, alone, it is not sufficient.

The way forward

We need new economic incentives for a robust antibiotic pipeline; valuation of antibiotics that acknowledges the value antibiotics deliver to society and reimbursement reforms to maintain availability, access and appropriate use of antibiotics on the market.

Pandemic preparedness requires an innovation ecosystem where new treatments can thrive.  Imagine if the world was ready.

This op-ed was originally published for Media Planet’s AMR Campaign on 18 November 2021.