Prime Minister David Cameron has announced a review into why so few anti-microbial drugs have been licensed for use in recent times. No new classes of antibiotic drugs have come on the market for more than 25 years, and the drugs we do have are over-prescribed. Economist Jim O’Neill will lead a panel including experts from science, finance, industry, and global health. Their remit is to encourage the development of new antibiotics, lest the world be “cast back into the dark ages of medicine where treatable infections and injuries will kill once again”.
“If we fail to act,” Cameron said, “we are looking at an almost unthinkable scenario where antibiotics no longer work.” He apparently discussed the issue at a G7 leaders’ meeting in Brussels earlier this month and obtained the support of US President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The G7 can huff and puff as much as it likes, but any plans to develop new antibiotics will perish on the altar of profit and cheap food. Immunity to antibiotics is not just the result of doctors over-prescribing them and patients failing to finish courses. Resistance is also caused by the widespread use of antibiotics in intensively farmed livestock. British farmers strive for greater efficiency by routinely adding antibiotics to the food of pigs and poultry. It’s a strategy that makes perfect sense, given the overcrowded and unhygienic conditions the animals have to survive in, but unfortunately, of course, it has the knock-on effect of contributing to antibiotic resistance in not only the animals but also the humans who inadvertently consume them later.
The solution is obvious: stricter legislation to improve the conditions of the animals.
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