Last week, AstraZeneca announced that it has entered into an agreement with Pfizer to sell the development and commercialisation rights to its late-stage small molecule antibiotics business. With this sale, AstraZeneca is pulling out of antibiotic drug development considering it a non-priority area for their business. At a time when we need more players to tackle the problem of antibiotic resistance, this is a retrograde step, particularly after the recommendations made by Lord Jim O’Neill in his Review on Antimicrobial Resistance. We face a bleak future without effective antibiotics where routine surgical procedures, such as cancer treatment and even childbirth, will become life-threatening. This will take us back to an era before modern medicine.
Developing new antibiotics has huge implications for tackling the issue of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and it is a sad day to see one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the UK withdraw from this sector. The UK has taken a leading position in finding a way to combat the superbug threat and with Lord Jim O’Neill’s Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, the Government has taken a world-leading role in raising awareness of the issue and finding a way forward; now is the time for action, before it is too late. His final report suggests that, by 2050, bacterial infections could cause 10 million more deaths each year, emphasizing the need to secure the development of new antibiotics in the near future.
It is now more important than ever for the UK Government to act and for charities to be presented with the opportunity to step into the void this leaves. The Third Sector is yet to be recognized as an important part of the solution in tacking resistance. With its not-for-profit ethos, open access and direct links with the public, professionals and patients, charities are integral to finding a solution and are already working towards a solution. I urge the Government to release funding to charities to bridge the gap that AstraZeneca’s withdrawal leaves.
You can read our Letter to the FT here.
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