[Ip-health] Foreign Policy: The Age of Infection

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Thu Oct 22 01:05:44 PDT 2015



Several proposals have been put forward to revitalize antibiotic R&D. Jim
O’Neill, the economist who chairs the U.K. task force on antimicrobial
resistance, suggests delinking drugs’ profitability from sales. According
to his commission’s May 2015 report, O’Neill envisions a global
organization that pays drug companies lump-sum payments of between $1
billion and $3 billion to either defray or cover the costs of antibiotic
development and a global innovation fund to support “blue-sky research into
drugs and diagnostics.” Overall, his plan would cost $16 billion to $37
billion over the next 10 years, depending on how exactly its component
parts were set up.

Although some experts agree that delinkage would be beneficial, they say
it’s unclear how implementation would work. David Shlaes, author of
Antibiotics: The Perfect Storm and a former vice president of Wyeth
Pharmaceuticals, has called O’Neill’s plan “Antibiotics in Neverland.”
Shlaes suggests an alternative: higher prices for antibiotics. Insurance
providers and patients are willing to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars
for cancer treatments that may grant only two or three extra months of
life, yet they are accustomed to paying only a couple of hundred dollars,
at most, for antibiotics that are usually guaranteed to work. That
expectation must change, Shlaes says, in order for drug development to be
viable from the pharma industry’s perspective.

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