Strengthening the European Union’s action against antimicrobial resistance: The Pharmaceutical Strategy for Europe is an opportunity not to be missed

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has been declared by the World Health Organisation as one of the top ten global public health threats facing humanity. The burden for European patients, healthcare systems and the wider economy is substantial, with an estimated 33,000 deaths per year, and €1.5 billion in healthcare costs. To make matters worse, AMR prevalence rates have been on the rise in recent years, which could lead to simple infections no longer being treatable in the future.  

COVID-19 is a prime example of the disastrous consequences of a pathogen not being treated, and while the current pandemic has caught the world by surprise, AMR can be prevented. The cross-border nature of AMR means that the EU is uniquely positioned to drive and implement a renewed ambitious, multi-sectoral response to this growing phenomenon, and the upcoming Pharmaceutical Strategy for Europe could mark a turning point in the EU’s fight to curb the rise of resistant infections. 

As we embark on European Antibiotic Awareness Day, the research-based pharmaceutical industry operating in Europe reiterates its commitment to partner with the EU institutions and governments, stakeholders and civil society, in finding joint solutions to AMR. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to AMR, and no single measure will, in isolation, provide a sufficient solution. Moving forward, following a One Health, cross sectoral approach will be imperative.  

In this context, the research-based pharmaceutical industry is determined to keep playing its role in preventing infections, improving hygiene and stewardship, and promoting the conservation of existing antimicrobials. Through vaccines, we help decrease the burden of AMR, by reducing the need for antibiotics, as well as their misuse, and by preventing antimicrobial infections from spreading. It is key that future policy recognises the role of vaccination through the life course and provides for increased uptake and coverage. Actions to reduce environmental impacts from the production of antimicrobials, while not jeopardizing patient access, are also fundamental. Through the AMR Industry Alliance, EFPIA and Vaccines Europe have agreed on a framework that promotes responsible antibiotic manufacturing, and via the Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Initiative (PSCI), the Eco-Pharmaco-Stewardship (EPS) and #medsdisposal campaign, we are working with industry peers to secure a more environmentally sustainable future. 

As developers and manufacturers of innovative medicines, our mission is to bring to patients the next generation of antimicrobial treatments and vaccines. In this respect, EU public-private partnerships for research and innovation such as the Innovative Medicines Initiative, have helped better understand the science of resistance and make progress towards the discovery and development of new antibiotics. The specificities of the antimicrobial market, however, mean that without a strong EU innovation framework in place and R&D incentivization beyond early-stage research, as is currently the case, new antibacterial breakthroughs will not be discovered and eventually reach those who urgently need them, at the needed pace

In the EU, there is a need for  pull incentives which reward successful delivery of new solutions against AMR. As a temporary solution and while much-needed innovation policies are designed and implemented by the EU and governments worldwide, our industry has raised US$1 billion to bring 2-3 new antibiotics to patients by 2030, via the AMR Action Fund. The Fund will support innovative antibiotic candidates through the most challenging later stages of drug development, providing financial resources and important technical support to help biotech companies in the antimicrobial space. 

As underlined by EFPIA’s Director General Nathalie Moll “Unlike COVID-19, AMR is a crisis we have seen coming for years now. I believe that more investment will be needed in the future if AMR is to be tackled properly, and the European Pharmaceutical Strategy will be instrumental in setting the direction for future EU actionsIn particular, new economic models and market interventions to ensure sustainable investment in antimicrobials are urgent and require immediate attention by EU policy-makers. Our industry stands ready to play its part”.