Medicine

Drug Resistance: Could Global Goals Be The Answer To This Worldwide Health Crisis?

  • This year will be critical in combatting the global health threat of drug-resistant infections.
  • Drug resistance has dropped off the global agenda, and commitments and reports have had limited impact so far.
  • Tangible targets and accountability are needed to drive progress and prevent losing the advances of modern medicine.

When thinking about the top 10 global public health threats, your first thoughts might include viruses with pandemic potential, climate change, or poverty. Drug-resistant infections might not immediately jump to mind.

But drug-resistant infections, caused by antimicrobial resistance (AMR), are a huge global issue. Research published in The Lancet in 2022, unveiled the very real human cost of this crisis – causing 1.27 million deaths in 2019 alone, and associated with an additional 3.7 million deaths (which is more than deaths caused by HIV/AIDs and malaria combined).

This is not a new crisis, but it is one that requires urgent action to avoid a world where a common medical procedure poses a high risk of infection and lengthy hospital stays, with fewer, if any, effective treatments for drug-resistant infections.

What action has been taken to combat drug resistance?

This year marks a decade since the beginning of the landmark Review on Antimicrobial Resistance led by economist Lord Jim O’Neill, which provided the bigger picture of the scale of the problem, elevating this global health threat up the global agenda and offering solutions for governments and industries to prevent it from growing.

In the 10 years since the review there have been a raft of global reports and political commitments, including the World Health Organization’s (WHO) global action plan on AMR, a High Level Meeting on AMR at the UN General Assembly in 2016, and the 2022 Muscat Ministerial Manifesto on AMR. But these have delivered limited impacts, and we have seen little concrete action to address this issue.

For too long drug resistance has not been seen as a high priority for decision makers, despite the risk it poses to modern medicine and potential cost to economies. And on the rare occasion it does feature on the global agenda, the spotlight is focused on building capacity and understanding. While both are essential, we are still missing ways to measure progress, setting evidence-based goals and ensuring action is taken to fill the gaps so global efforts are kept on track.

Establishing bold clear targets – like the 1.5C target for climate change – is the key to incentivise and galvanise support for action against drug resistance. With achievable but ambitious targets and mechanisms to track progress against them, we can drive progress through global collaboration to develop new novel antibiotics and engage with communities most affected in low-and middle-income countries.

By: Jeremy Knox (Head of Policy for Infectious Disease, Wellcome) and Steffen Pierini Lüders (Senior Vice-President, Corporate Affairs, Novo Nordisk Foundation)
Originally published at: World Economic Forum



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