Global co­op­er­a­tion as a life-and-death is­sue

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

The un­cer­tainty gen­er­ated by the United King­dom’s re­cent vote to leave the Euro­pean Union – which has sent shock­waves through global mar­kets – has been dom­i­nat­ing head­lines. But, as we pre­pare to face new po­lit­i­cal tri­als, we must not lose sight of the chal­lenges we al­ready face, es­pe­cially global health chal­lenges like the rise of an­timi­cro­bial re­sis­tance (AMR), which has no re­gard for eco­nomic per­for­mance or po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity.

As it stands, an es­ti­mated 700,000 peo­ple are los­ing their lives to drug-re­sis­tant in­fec­tions each year. By 2050, this fig­ure could sky­rocket to ten mil­lion per year, at a cu­mu­la­tive cost to world GDP of $100 tril­lion..

To avoid that out­come, in May the Re­view on AMR that I lead pub­lished its strat­egy for tack­ling such in­fec­tions, lay­ing out pro­pos­als to en­sure the de­vel­op­ment of the nec­es­sary new an­tibi­otics, and to use ex­ist­ing an­tibi­otics more ef­fi­ciently in hu­mans and agri­cul­ture. Of the ten ma­jor in­ter­ven­tions we pro­posed, four are par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant:

· Launch a global cam­paign, tai­lored for dif­fer­ent re­gions, to i mprove pub­lic aware­ness of AMR.

· Ad­dress the mar­ket fail­ure in the de­vel­op­ment of new an­tibi­otics by in­tro­duc­ing lump-sum mar­ket-en­try re­wards to de­vel­op­ers of suc­cess­ful new drugs, while en­sur­ing global ac­cess.

· Ad­vance in­no­va­tion and im­prove use of diagnostic tech­nol­ogy to sup­port more ef­fi­cient use of an­tibi­otics.

· Im­ple­ment coun­try-level tar­gets fo­cused on re­duc­ing un­nec­es­sary use of an­tibi­otics in agri­cul­ture and hu­mans.

With our fi­nal re­port com­plete, the Re­view will now con­tinue to make the in­ter­na­tional case for ac­tion di­rectly to po­lit­i­cal lead­ers. For ex­am­ple, in my ca­pac­ity as the Re­view’s Chair­man, I re­cently dis­cussed our rec­om­men­da­tions at the World Health Assem­bly in Geneva, and with United Na­tions and United States pol­i­cy­mak­ers in New York and Wash­ing­ton, DC.

In these dis­cus­sions, pol­i­cy­mak­ers’ grow­ing aware­ness of the dan­ger posed by AMR stood out. Just two years ago, the topic of drug-re­sis­tant in­fec­tions would usu­ally be met with ques­tions like “What is AMR?” or, “Why would a fi­nance min­is­ter take charge of a health cri­sis?” Few un­der­stood the scale and mul­ti­fac­eted na­ture of the chal­lenge, and thus the need for a com­pre­hen­sive ap­proach. I asked my­self sim­i­lar ques­tions when Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron first asked me to lead the Re­view on AMR.

The sit­u­a­tion has changed con­sid­er­ably since then. Pol­i­cy­mak­ers from coun­tries with a wide va­ri­ety of eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal sys­tems are en­gag­ing on the AMR prob­lem, with some coun­tries al­ready tak­ing steps to tackle it. All of this pro­vides grounds for hope that 2016 may be the year when real change gets un­der­way.

But hope is one thing; ac­tion is another. While high-level meet­ings and speeches about AMR send the right mes­sage, they will mean noth­ing if we do not man­age to trans­late the cur­rent mo­men­tum into con­crete ac­tion, be­gin­ning at the G20 and UN meet­ings this Septem­ber. And while my most re­cent dis­cus­sions sug­gest that agree­ments are likely to be reached at both of these meet­ings, it is far from cer­tain that they will match the scale of the prob­lem.

At the G20, the needed agree­ment should fo­cus on de­vel­op­ing a global mech­a­nism to re-in­vig­o­rate the mar­ket for new an­tibi­otics that are glob­ally af­ford­able, ac­ces­si­ble, and used as ef­fi­ciently as pos­si­ble. At the UN, the goal should be to turn the mantra of “ac­cess, not ex­cess” into a re­al­ity, with an agree­ment to re­duce the un­nec­es­sary use of an­tibi­otics in agri­cul­ture, and to spear­head a global aware­ness cam­paign. In­creased fund­ing for re­search and de­vel­op­ment of new an­tibi­otics and di­ag­nos­tics to fight AMR is also vi­tal.

Cru­cially, the agree­ments must have teeth. Coun­tries should set their own ob­jec­tives to fit their par­tic­u­lar cir­cum­stances and needs, but there must be some pro­vi­sions to en­sure that all are pulling their weight. For starters, ef­forts to fight AMR should be in­cor­po­rated into broader eco­nomic-de­vel­op­ment strate­gies, in­clud­ing the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the UN Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals.

More­over, progress should be mea­sured, not only so that pol­i­cy­mak­ers, com­pa­nies, and health sys­tems can be held ac­count­able, but also so that oth­ers can em­u­late their suc­cesses. To this end, we may need new met­rics for cal­cu­lat­ing the im­pact of AMR. While this sounds tech­ni­cal (and it is), the re­al­ity is that top AMR sci­en­tists think that agree­ing on com­mon mea­sure­ments could change the way in­di­vid­ual coun­tries set their own tar­gets and im­prove our ca­pac­ity to mea­sure progress in the com­ing years.

Fi­nally, to ac­count for chang­ing po­lit­i­cal pri­or­i­ties and per­son­al­i­ties, we need a con­stant cham­pion in the fight against AMR. For ex­am­ple, a UN en­voy on AMR could be ap­pointed, to con­tinue mak­ing the in­ter­na­tional case for ad­dress­ing the is­sue and to chal­lenge coun­tries to meet their tar­gets. With­out such a con­sis­tent re­minder of the need to tackle AMR, not to men­tion trans­parency about progress, the world could be­come side­tracked and miss the rapidly clos­ing win­dow of op­por­tu­nity to de­liver the changes needed to stop the rise of drug-re­sis­tant in­fec­tions.

Over the last cou­ple of years, gov­ern­ments, in­dus­try, and in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions have made im­por­tant strides in meet­ing the AMR threat.

But the re­ally hard de­ci­sions must be taken now. If we are to pre­vent the slow-mo­tion car crash of ris­ing AMR, our lead­ers must take eva­sive ac­tion now. We know what we have to do; now we must get on with do­ing it.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Cyprus

© PressReader. All rights reserved.