Fight superbugs by taxing antibiotics

Lord O’Neill of Gatley, who led the O’Neill Review of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR), and I are amongst a group of parliamentarians calling on the Health Secretary to tax antibiotics to raise funds to tackle superbugs. The O’Neill Review predicted that 10 million people every year would die as a result of AMR by 2050 and that we need to raise around $4bn per annum to tackle the problem. In a letter to Health Secretary Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP we argue that “With government budgets under severe pressure and the lack of progress in getting the pharmaceutical sector to pay a charge or invest directly in R&D, this would be the simplest and most effective solution. The total global market for antibiotics is around $40bn a year. If a 10% resistance tax was imposed it could provide the $4bn dollars needed to take action now.”

This solution makes sense as at the moment. There is no financial incentive to invest in research as new drugs are used as a last line of defence, so there is no payback for the drug companies. These funds would be used by pharmaceutical companies and research organisations to develop new treatments. As a typical antibiotic costs a pharmaceutical company £1, any tax would equate to 10p, which is a modest amount compared to the current prescription charge of £8.80 but would make a huge difference to the campaign to tackle AMR, which kills 700,000 a year because of drug resistance to illnesses such as bacterial infections, malaria, HIV/AIDS or tuberculosis.

The O’Neill review, which was commissioned by former Prime Minister David Cameron in 2014, estimates that the cost of taking global action on AMR is up to $40 billion over a 10-year period. This includes research and development of new antibiotics, an AMR Global Innovation Fund, supporting innovative new diagnostics and vaccines, good general surveillance and better water and sanitation.

Attachments

Attachment Size
AMR letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock 223.05 KB