The pharma industry has come out largely in support of the overarching aims of the UK's five-year antimicrobial strategy, a multi-pronged global approach to address the growing spread of antimicrobial resistance.

The strategy, Catriona McMahon, director of UK Medical and Healthcare Affairs at AstraZeneca, told PharmaTimes World News, is "a good step in the right direction", and shows the UK has a significant role in driving the global effort to mitigate the threat of antibiotic resistance.

Crucially for pharma, the strategy acknowledges that the commercial environment for antibiotic development urgently needs updating, given the low return available in the current model.

While resistance to existing antibiotics is snowballing, the stream of antibiotics coming through R&D pipelines is drying up fast; a 75% drop in the number of systemic antibacterials approved by US regulators was seen between 1983 and 2007, with a further drop observed in subsequent years.

If antimicrobial resistance is to be tackled this trend must be reversed, and one of the key aims of the UK's strategy is to stimulate the development of antibiotics, diagnostics and novel therapies, through better collaboration between research councils, academia, industry and others, and by encouraging greater public-private investment in their discovery and development.

According to Ms McMahon, in the longer-term, all parties must be "incentivised to remain actively interested in the development of strategies to work on the issues together".

And the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, which has also welcomed the strategy, says "a balanced approach to this challenge requires consideration of new clinical development pathways within a flexible regulatory framework alongside appropriate financial incentives". 

Incentives for research

Indeed, a report by Office of Health Economics suggests considering the use of incentives such advance market commitments, priority review vouchers, patent extensions, and direct R&D funding to help fuel activity in the area.

"It is too early to say there is one solution," Ms McMahon told PT, but added "the intent is that we share the risk, and now we are looking at how this can be done".

The ABPI also noted that "it is vitally important that a realistic plan of action is agreed so that all partners can work together to deliver upon the strategic objectives that are outlined within the strategy".

Elsewhere, also of particular interest to pharma, is the rational prescribing of antibiotics, given that the inappropriate prescribing of these drugs is also a key driver of resistance. 

This is also one of the key aims of the strategy, to "conserve and steward the effectiveness of existing treatments" and optimise prescribing practices. And here, Ms McMahon says, the industry also has an important role to play, helping to secure high quality antibiotic stewardship through communication and education channels.

What to know more? The September issue of PharmaTimes Magazine, out this Monday, looks at the business case for pharma in tackling antibiotic resistance. Click here for a free subscription.