Surrey Economics graduate Lord Jim O’Neill has reported on the human and economic cost posed by the global problem of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), whereby microbes evolve to become immune to known drug.
Former chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management and current government minister, Lord O’Neill has chaired the Government’s Review on Antimicrobial Resistance which has detailed a comprehensive action plan for the world to prevent drug-resistant infections and defeat the rising threat of superbugs – something that could kill 10 million people a year by 2050. This would result in a cumulative economic cost of around $100 trillion.
He said: “It is now clear to me, as it has been to scientific experts for a long time, that tackling AMR is absolutely essential. It needs to be seen as the economic and security threat that it is, and be at the forefront of the minds of heads of state, finance ministers, agriculture ministers, and of course health ministers, for years to come.
Although AMR is a massive challenge, it is one that I believe is well within our ability to tackle effectively. The human and economic costs compel us to act: if we fail to do so, the brunt of these will be borne by our children and grandchildren, and felt most keenly in the poorest parts of the world.”
The Review sets out 10 recommendations, of which the four main ones are:
- A global public awareness campaign to educate about the problem of drug resistance to be launched formally by heads of state at the UN General Assembly in September
- The supply of new antibiotics needs to be improved so they can replace existing ones as they become ineffective.
- The need to use antibiotics more selectively through the use of rapid diagnostics, to reduce unnecessary use, which speeds the incidence and spread of drug resistance.
- Reducing the extensive and unnecessary use of antibiotics in agriculture.
The proposals made by the Review would cost up to 40 billion USD over 10 years. However, the cost of AMR between now and 2050 could be as much as 100 trillion USD. The report suggests the solutions could be paid for by one or more of the following:
a) Allocating a very small percentage of G20 countries’ existing healthcare spending to tackling AMR
b) Reallocating a fraction of global funding from international institutions to AMR
c) Applying an antibiotic investment charge to pharmaceutical companies who do not invest in research for AMR
d) Implementing a tax on antibiotics
e) Introducing transferrable ‘vouchers’ to reward new antibiotics
Lord O’Neill said: “Chairing this Review has been one of the most stimulating things I have been lucky enough to do in my professional career.”
Lord 0’Neill, who graduated with PhD in Economics in 1982, is widely for coining BRIC, the acronym that stands for Brazil, Russia, India, and China—the four rapidly developing countries that have come to symbolise the shift in global economic power away from the developed G7 economies.
He was appointed to the House of Lords in May 2015 and became Commercial Secretary to Her Majesty’s Treasury in the UK. He continues to chair the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance in a personal capacity.