Today the independent Review on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) commissioned by the Prime Minister published its final report on how we can address antibiotic resistance and therein incentivise new research and development for conditions including TB: http://amr-review.org/
Resistance has increasingly become a problem as the pace at which new antibiotics are discovered has slowed and antibiotic use has risen, with George Osborne warning the IMF last month that ‘unless we take global action, antimicrobial resistance will become an even greater threat to mankind than cancer is’.
We know that TB is already the world's leading infectious killer and the only airborne drug resistant infection, but that it has not always been prioritised. There have been no new drugs in the standard TB regimen for 50 years, for example, with treatment for multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB) often involving 14,000 pills and 8 months of injections over a two year period.
Significantly, the Review found that if left unaddressed, by 2050 TB will be responsible for a quarter of AMR deaths (75 million over the next 35 years) and will cost the global economy US$16.7 trillion.
The Review has recognised the threat posed by MDR-TB: 9 of its 10 recommendations are applicable to tackling TB, and the report includes a case study on ending the TB epidemic which concludes that: "Tackling TB and drug-resistant TB must be at the heart of any global action against AMR. The burden of TB is too great, and the need for new treatments too urgent".
In particular, the Review recognises the need for new tools to fight TB, including incentivising new diagnostic development, introducing a market entry prize for new TB regimen and expanding the Global Innovation Fund to cover basic research for vaccines.
In addition, the Review highlights that diagnosing and treating people is integral to fighting resistance and it recognises the importance of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria in this regard.
The Review's recommendations are extremely welcome, but the next stage is to secure international backing for them. The Review team and the UK Government will be seeking to influence international fora, such as the G20 and UN, to do this and we will be working with international parliamentary partners through the Global TB Caucus to support this.
It is clear that the Review's recommendations could lead to a step change in the development of urgently needed TB diagnostics, drugs and vaccines. Getting TB into the Review was the first step, now we need to ensure its recommendations become reality.