Incentives to tackle antimicrobial resistance will help, but patent filing data indicates that research to find new antibiotics is still very much on big pharma’s agenda, says Withers & Rogers

A UK Government review warning of an ‘antibiotics apocalypse’ is recommending the introduction of incentives to encourage pharmaceutical companies to invest in research activity to find new drugs and treatments to tackle antimicrobial resistance.

Despite the welcome focus on promoting research activity, patent filing data indicates that work to find new antibiotics is already happening.

Chaired by Jim O’Neill, the review has proposed that pharmaceutical companies that fail to devote resources to developing antibiotics should pay a levy of 0.25% of annual sales into a pooled fund to support market rewards for other companies that successfully develop new treatments.

Recognising the importance of introducing industry incentives to tackle antimicrobial resistance, the review also recommends the creation of a Global Innovation Fund of $2 billion over five years, which companies can draw upon to help fund research activity. It also recommends that a lump sum payment of some $1.3 billion is set aside to reward the successful developer of a new antibiotic drug.

Dr Nicholas Jones, partner and patent attorney at European intellectual property firm, Withers & Rogers, said:

“Incentives to reward pharmaceutical companies investing in research to find new antibiotics would certainly help to improve the risk versus reward profile of such activity. However, much wider behavioural changes are needed to prevent an antibiotic-resistance crisis.

“There has been a significant drop off in patent filing activity in all fields of drug research in the hangover since the economic downturn. However, when compared with research activity to find treatments for other diseases, the drop off in the area of antibiotics research is no more or less than would be expected. This is confirmation that research activity to find new antibiotics has not taken a back seat.

“Far from being ignored by big pharma, the problem of antimicrobial resistance is very much on the agenda and as long as these recommendations are introduced soon, they could help to accelerate the market introduction of new, life-saving drugs and treatments.” 

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