In 2016, Jim O'Neill published his report following a Government Review on Antimicrobial Resistance. That report predicted that antibiotic resistance could kill 10 million people each year by 2050.
Professor Dame Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer for England, has said: "The threat of antimicrobial resistance cannot be overstated - without intervention it is not an exaggeration to say that we could return to the dark ages of medicine."
The Government has now published its latest plans, including the following targets:
Crucially, the Government has recognised that the current model, in which pharma spends hundreds of millions of pounds in developing new medicines in return for a limited period of exclusivity under their patents, does not work for antibiotics, where there is an incentive to keep valuable new treatments back to avoid over-use and reduced effectiveness. NICE and NHS England have agreed to explore a new payment model that would reimburse pharma based on how valuable their medicines are to the NHS, instead of the amount of their antibiotics that are sold. This could be a game-changer in terms of incentivising new antibiotics.
The UK has already had some success with reducing the amount of antibiotics it uses by 7% since 2014 and sales of antibiotics for use in food-producing animals by 40%. However, the number of drug-resistant bloodstream infections increased by 35% from 2013 to 2017.
Announcing the vision, Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock, said: "Imagine a world without antibiotics. Where treatable infections become untreatable, where routine surgery like a hip operation becomes too risky to carry out, and where every wound is potentially life-threatening. What would go through your mind if your child cut their finger and you knew there was no antibiotic left that could treat an infection?
"Each and every one of us benefits from antibiotics, but we all too easily take them for granted, and I shudder at the thought of a world in which their power is diminished. Antimicrobial resistance is as big a danger to humanity as climate change or warfare. That’s why we need an urgent global response."
Much of what Matt Hancock is currently doing, since he has become Health Secretary not so long ago, is on the money. This is another key issue he is targeting. Tackling antimicrobial resistance is critical for the future treatment of patients. Whether a major or minor injury or treatment, it is vital to have further treatments to bacterial infections. Five years on since Jim O'Neill was commissioned to look into this, we have still not seen sufficient progress. The reimbursement model to incentivise pharma to develop new antibiotics could be just to the tonic - so let's see what happens next.