UK Government announces 'enhanced' role of pharmacists to address antimicrobial resistance

Faith Castro
January 27, 2019

At the heart of that plan is the development of a new way of paying for antibiotics that he said will start development in the NHS within the next six months.

"The UK has taken a global lead by setting out a 20 year AMR vision explaining the steps we must take nationally and internationally to rise to this challenge".

Experts say doctors could be prescribing antibiotics too often, and sometimes giving them to patients who don't really need them.

Resistant infections contribute to the deaths of about 2,000 people each year in the United Kingdom, with at least 20% of antibiotics in primary care inappropriately prescribed, according to official figures.

Hancock told the BBC that the current payment model, which bases reimbursement on the volume of drugs sold, encourages pharmaceutical companies to sell as many antibiotics as they can.

Overuse of antibiotics is making infections increasingly hard to treat, causing drug-resistant superbugs to be as big of a threat to humanity as climate change.

Over the last few decades, development of new antibiotics has nearly ground to a halt as big pharma does not think it is worth the low return on investment.

Medical charity the Wellcome Trust welcomed news of the government plan but urged it to move quickly.

I am proud of the work the United Kingdom has done to secure antimicrobial resistance on the global agenda.

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NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said: 'As part of the long-term plan for the NHS, we will reduce the use of antibiotics by a further 15%, through offering patients access to new treatments and using more accurate e-prescribing, as well as acting earlier to prevent ill health developing in the first place'.

In a statement, the health department said: "The way drugs companies are now paid depends on the volumes they sell, meaning companies have an incentive to sell as many antibiotics as possible, at the same time as government is trying to reduce antibiotic use".

In 2018, Public Health England reported the case of of a United Kingdom man infected with a multidrug-resistant form of gonorrhea.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced a new payment system, where drug firms have financial incentives to develop new drugs to tackle AMR.

Public Health England also warned a year ago that common procedures including caesarean sections and hip replacements could carry greater risks if antibiotic resistance and shortages of the drugs continue to grow. The government has committed to working with veterinarians and farmers to reduce the use of antibiotics in animals by 25 percent between 2016 and 2020, with objectives to be refreshed by 2021.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is considered one of the greatest threats to human health, with predictions it could become a bigger killer than cancer if it not tackled with a global effort.

"For example, the potential presence of antibiotics and resistance genes in the environment is an area that is of growing concern to both medical and veterinary specialists".

The plan lays out three key ways in which the government will take action against AMR: reducing the need for antimicrobials by lowering the burden of infection in humans and animals, optimizing antimicrobial use in humans and animals through better stewardship, and investing in research and development of new antibiotics, diagnostics, and vaccines. This is not just a health issue, it is a social and economic one.

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