For the first time ever, world leaders have addressed the increasingly alarming problem of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). The U.N. General Assembly passed a historic declaration that requires countries to come up with a 2-year plan to monitor and curb the use of current antibiotics and to start developing new ones.
According to an analysis by an independent British commission, about 700,000 people die every year from drug-resistant infections. And this number could rise to 10 million additional deaths annually by 2050. Yet, as this ABC News graphic shows, the number of new antibacterial agents is declining.
Government officials and disease experts are increasingly concerned that drug resistance poses a global economic and security threat as well as a health threat. A 2014 report cited by the Associated Press and other news outlets projected that AMR will cost the world as much as $100 trillion by the year 2050.
But the General Assembly’s declaration offers hope. According to NPR’s Michaeleen Doucleff, a similar declaration by world leaders about HIV/AIDS in 2001 had tremendous impact. According to Director of the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy, Ramanan Laxminarayan:
Pharmaceutical companies are also taking action. The Washington Post reports that companies including Johnson & Johnson, Novartis and Pfizer have presented a plan for reducing drug resistance, which includes working to reduce unnecessary antibiotic use, improving access to current and future antibiotics, and exploring new research and development opportunities.
The global biopharmaceutical industry is also taking action. In conjunction with the General Assembly’s meeting, pharmaceutical, biotechnology and diagnostics industry members of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA) released a Declaration on Combating Antimicrobial Resistance. Building on this declaration, 13 leading biopharmaceutical companies announced a roadmap that lays out four key commitments they will deliver by 2020 to reduce AMR.
From individual patients to pharmaceutical companies to global leaders, we all have a part to play to limit the troubling rise in drug resistance. The events coming out of the General Assembly’s meeting demonstrate a commitment by world and industry leaders alike to tackle this complex global problem.