More than 80 drug makers urged governments to form new economic models to help them battle drug-resistant superbugs. They called for joint efforts to stop inappropriate use of antibiotics and support for the development of new potent ones that may save tens of millions of lives in the next decades.

In a declaration at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, the companies called for the help of governments in their fight against antimicrobial resistance. Drug-resistant pathogens repel the effects of commonly-used antibiotics rendering them hard-to-treat and life-threatening.

"For the world to continue to have new antibiotics, we need investments in basic science and novel incentive models for industry R&D, and to protect our existing treatments, we need new frameworks for appropriate use," Paul Stoffels, chief scientific officer of Johnson & Johnson, said (PDF).

International pharmaceutical companies face the problem of disapproval of new antibiotics over the last two decades. These companies carry burdens of not only scientific challenges, but also financial problems. Some of those who signed the declaration admitted that they dropped developments of antibiotics for business reasons.

In a report by the World Economic Forum on issues of pharmaceutical companies, new drug development requires around $1 billion and between four and seven years of clinical trial. With the high cost and time needed for such drug developments, drug makers ask the assistance of governments around the globe.

According to former Goldman Sachs chief economist, Jim O'Neill, he was asked by Britain's prime minister to review the predicament and propose means to solve it. He estimated that by 2050, drug-resistant pathogens could kill around 10 million people a year. This chaotic scenario could cost up to $100 trillion if left uncontrolled.

The declaration includes the development of efficient and accurate diagnostic tests to detect infecting organisms properly. This helps make certain that antibacterial drugs are used properly. This will make sure that antibiotics will not be prescribed to patients suffering from viral infections, for which they would not work.

The problem of drug-resistant pathogens emerged since the development of the first antibiotic, penicillin, in 1928. With the development of more potent antibiotics for a wide range of diseases, the problem grew in the last decades as drug makers withdrew investment in antimicrobial development.

Photo: Iqbal Osman | Flickr

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