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Drugs companies pledge £1bn to tackle 'looming' health threats

Lucy Harley-McKeown
·2-min read
CHINA - 2020/03/23: In this photo illustration the British multinational pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) logo seen displayed on a smartphone with a computer model of the COVID-19 coronavirus on the background. (Photo Illustration by Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Photo Illustration: Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

A rise in antibiotic-resistant infections is a “looming global crisis” with the potential to eclipse COVID-19 in terms of deaths, according to a group of drugs companies.

The International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA), a trade association representing global pharmaceuticals companies, plans to inject nearly £1bn ($1.3bn) into research and development to target this issue.

“Unlike COVID-19, [this] is a predictable and preventable crisis. We must act together to rebuild the pipeline and ensure that the most promising and innovative antibiotics make it from the lab to patients,” said Thomas Cueni, Director General of the IFPMA, one of the organisers of the new fund.

“The AMR Action Fund is one of the largest and most ambitious collaborative initiatives ever undertaken by the pharmaceutical industry to respond to a global public health threat,” he added.

Around 700,000 people die around the world every year as a result of antibiotic resistance, the IFPMA said.

According to studies, antibiotic-resistant bacteria could kill up to 10 million people a year by 2050.

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The Times reported that Emma Walmsley, one of the pharmaceuticals industry’s most senior leaders and CEO of Glaxosmithkline (GSK.L), said that the coronavirus pandemic had shown “the world needs to be better prepared for global health threats.”

She said antimicrobial resistance was another such threat that “left untackled risks taking us back to a time when a simple cut could become lethal.”

The 20 companies supporting the project, including industry giants Pfizer (PFE), Roche (RHHBY) and Bayer (BAYRY), hope to bring up to four new antibiotics to the market by 2030, the IFPMA said in a statement.

Meanwhile, drugs companies are racing to create a coronavirus vaccine.

Hopes currently lie in AstraZeneca’s (AZN.L) partnership with Oxford University.

The company has already struck a deal to supply 400 million doses to Europe by the end of 2020, should it get a winning formula.