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.


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AMR letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock 223.05 KB