For over thirty years, the pharmaceutical industry didn’t develop a new family of antibiotics and bacteria, one of the most adaptable organisms on the planet, is learning to get around them. Resistance to antibacterial treatments is considered one of the ten greatest health risks facing humanity and has earned the nickname “silent pandemic”, with 4.95 million people died in 2019, more than diseases such as HIV or malaria. The challenge, in addition to health, is economic, because, under the current model, the big pharmaceutical companies do not research to get new antibiotics because they are not reimbursed for their costs and the government is trying to find the formula so that the largest pharmaceutical company. in the world put your capacity at the service of this pandemic. This is the opportunity for economists to get creative and ideas like the Netflix model or the extension of patents for third-party medicines as a reward that has already emerged.
For World Health Organization (WHO) this is one “socioeconomic” crisis, because there is no viable market for new antibiotics. “The return on investment of new reserved antibiotics does not include the costs of their development, production and distribution,” concluded the entity in the report Encouraging the development of new treatments that antibacterial 2023, developed in collaboration with the Global AMR R&D Hub, an organization promoted. by the G20 in 2018, as part of a call to improve coordination between different economies to prevent this threat.
on antimicrobial resistance does not stop, This condition could lead to ten million deaths by 2050, according to the organization itself. “No company with more than five hundred employees currently develops antibiotics because they do not provide immediate benefits and there are more profitable drugs such as diabetes or cholesterol,” explained the director of Antibiotic University Resistance Unit. Complutense of Madrid (UCM) and WHO advisor on antibiotic resistance and One Health, Bruno González-Zorn.
If no action is taken, the Antibiotic resistance costs 100 billion dollars worldwide, a figure calculated by researcher Jim O’Neill in 2014 at the request of the British Government. Although the figure was calculated before the Covid-19 pandemic, as a result of which the use of antibiotics increases and accelerates the periods of this silent pandemic. In the latest report of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), published this September, it is estimated that the figure is currently at 29 billion dollars per year in the 34 member countries of the organization. González-Zorn believes that the deaths that will occur until 2050 have increased until 2040 because of the coronavirus crisis.
So far, the WHO has shown that research incentives which reduced the cost of R&D development which “contributed to alleviate some challenges”, but described it as “not enough” to achieve the goals. Furthermore, they warn that, if a viable market is not created, R&D investment will continue to decline.
From the Netflix formula to the prize for the winner
To face a crisis that promises causes more deaths than cancer, governments are working to explore new formulas to make the antibiotic economy work. The last bell was given by the US Government, which announced a budget of 100 million dollars to develop research against resistant bacteria, a project to be channeled from the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H), a center inaugurated last year. In 2020, the health department approved the plan Pioneering Antimicrobial Subscriptions To End Up Emerging Resistance Act of 2021, called the Pasteur Act, to establish subscription contracts for essential antimicrobial drugs, the so-called Netflix formula . In this model, governments periodically pay pharmaceutical companies an agreed amount for the demonstration of a new drug, whether it is used or not, like paying a Netflix user. every month whether he watches series and movies or not, open for the whole month.
the The law did not pass the filter of the House of Representatives in 2020, but the measure was revived by American politics in April and could pass next year. Currently, the US Government has chosen to approve development aid (in 2022 it approved $300 million for the next decade) and included it in Joe Biden’s budget for 2024. The White House hopes to invest nine million dollars in mandatory financing to improve it. drugs “by decoupling the number of sales from the income.”
WHO Yes, the United Kingdom is adding to the Netflix model. In 2022, the British National Health Service (NHS) closed the first contract under this formula in the world with Pfizer and the Japanese Shionogi and is studying the expansion of the program. In the European Union, negotiations continue between the 27 and the pharmaceutical lobby to find the right way to solve the problem.
“It’s possible choose an awarding model first to release a new drug, a model implemented in the United States that has not worked well,” explained González-Zorn, pointing to other recipes such as “fixed financing models, where the company is given the agreed income or financing “intermediate. , where it is agreed to increase the income of the government fund if the goals are not met.” The professor points out that, in addition, other alternative methods can be chosen, such as extending the patent to other molecules that can generate more income for pharmaceutical companies. “We need to change the paradigm to solve the problem,” he said.