The chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has warned that global resistance to antibiotics could become an even greater threat to the human race than cancer.
Latest figures collated by the World Health Organisation indicates that as many as 10 million people could die globally by 2050 on an annual basis as a result of antibiotics becoming powerless against common infection.
This figure is in excess of the current deaths globally from cancer.
Osborne told delegates at a meeting of the International Monetary Fund in Washington that the economic cost of this issue by 2050 will be absolutely huge.
Indeed, the Chancellor estimates that antimicrobial resistance could reduce global GDP by in excess of 3.5% by the midpoint of this century; a cost of £70 trillion.
At the conference, Osbourne made the following statement:
“Unless we take global action, antimicrobial resistance will become an even greater threat to mankind than cancer currently is. It is not just a health problem but an economic one, too. The cost of doing nothing, both in terms of lives lost and money wasted, is too great, and the world needs to come together to agree a common approach.”
Osborne continued by suggesting some of the solutions to this drastic problem.
“We have to dramatically shift incentives for pharmaceutical companies and others to create a long-term solution to this problem, with new rewards, funded globally, that support the development of new antibiotics and ensure access to antibiotics in the developing world. To achieve a long-term solution we also need better rapid diagnostics that will cut the vast amounts of unnecessary antibiotic use.”
David Cameron had previously spoken out about the magnitude of the antibiotic resistance threat back at a G20 meeting in 2014.
Meanwhile, the Treasury minister and economist Lord O’Neill had been tasked with investigating potential solutions to this growing global problem.
It has been concluded that government funding should be increased for early-stage research into the issue, while capabilities should be built in low-income settings to monitor the development and spread of drug resistance.
One particular proposal from O’Neill that is expected to be rubber stamped by Osborne in the coming months is the idea of creating market entry rewards.
These will effectively award money to pharmaceutical companies, or conglomerates of companies, which achieve a new antibiotic cure or diagnostic reaching the market.
Lord O’Neill will publish the final recommendations from his review in May, as the British government continues to assess this ongoing difficulty.