As a physician-scientist, I am greatly concerned by the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance. The emergence of “Superbugs” and drug-resistant bacteria threatens the health of individuals, communities and economies all over the world.
Antibiotics are the backbone of modern medicine and have increased life expectancy over the decades. While many of the “simple” microbial targets have already been identified, few new therapies have been developed and brought to market in recent years. Safeguarding our antibiotics from inappropriate use and expanding our current arsenal is critical to preserving efficacy of treatment and combating resistance. We have not delivered on this objective.
The facts are staggering. An independent UK Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, which estimates that effective global action, the rise of drug-resistant infections could claim 10 million lives globally each year by 2050 and result in a cumulative loss from global output of 100 trillion USD.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) still remains a major public health threat globally, often occurring during hospital stays. In the US alone, the management of hospital and healthcare-acquired infections cost the health system an estimated $10MM USD per year and drug-resistant healthcare-acquired infections (HAIs) are on the rise. That means more dollars spent and more importantly, lives unnecessarily lost.
Safeguarding currently available antibiotics and discovering new options is possible through a holistic approach, including investment in basic science, incentives for the development of new antibiotic treatments and systems to implement and monitor appropriate use. No one company or organization can do this alone. Success in combatting antimicrobial resistance requires sustainable commitment and partnership from the private sector, governments and international aid organizations.
We are pleased to be one of more than 80 signatories on a new Declaration backed by the UK Review on Antimicrobial Resistance that was just unveiled at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The Declaration outlines three areas in which the companies will work to prevent and treat drug-resistant infections. These include reducing drug resistance through appropriate use of new and existing antibiotics; increasing investment and collaboration in research and development; and improving access to high-quality antibiotics. The Declaration takes a multi-dimensional or “package” approach to incentives and programs that would offer innovators the greatest potential and flexibility at different stages of development.
Millions of us around the world depend on antibiotics and vaccines for protection against emerging and existing microbial threats. We believe that the Declaration is critically important to optimizing the world’s ability to protect the public’s health and our global economies by bringing together the right stakeholders from multiple sectors in coordinated action against this urgent challenge. Our hope is that through continual commitment and engagement under this Declaration, policy change can be made and innovation sparked that speeds the development of new antibiotic treatments and vaccines.
Dr. Paul Stoffels, M.D., is Chief Scientific Officer, and Worldwide Chairman, Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson. In this role, he works with R&D leaders across Johnson & Johnson to set the enterprise-wide innovation agenda and is a member of the Johnson & Johnson Executive Committee. He began his career as a physician in Africa, focusing on HIV and tropical diseases research. Paul chairs the Johnson & Johnson R&D Management Committee and provides oversight to the Johnson & Johnson Development Corporation (JJDC) and the Johnson & Johnson innovation centers, with the goal of catalyzing innovative science and technology.