Former MP David Cameron commissioned the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) a major report on the need for developing new antibiotics and the consequences of not preventing the overuse of antibiotics. The report has received little attention despite the very serious nature of the threat which, if not addressed, will result in deaths of millions and costs running into the trillions of dollars. The chair was an economist, Jim O’Neill because the medical side is settled science and the biggest challenges are all economic and financial.


Superbugs, that is, bacteria which are either very difficult or even impossible to treat with current medicines are increasing in number for several reasons. One major reason is the ease of transportation which spreads once rare and isolated diseases from remote areas and the other is the evolution of new strains of known bacteria caused by overuse of antibiotics and an excessive obsession with cleanliness which leaves only the most virulent to multiply and spread.

Changes needed

One recommendation of the report was that data collection about people infected with resistant infections and superbugs must be improved - right now there isn’t a lot of good data about the incidence of such infections especially in non-developed countries - that has already been addressed by the new Fleming Fund.

Another recommendation for increased research into new drugs is also being addressed with the new Global Innovation Fund initially funded by the U.K. and China

Drug companies

There is little or no serious work on developing new antibiotics for the current relatively small number of people who die from superbugs (700,000 worldwide deaths each year is actually a small market to drug companies) and are able to afford expensive new treatments.

The drugs you see advertised such as Viagra, called lifestyle drubs by some, are far more profitable or the companies wouldn’t pay to advertise them.

10 report recommendations

Out of the ten ideas, Mr. O’Neill has cited four as the most critical. First, the need to educate people, especially younger people about the dangers posed by growing drug resistance and superbugs.

Second, a coalition of governments needs to provide a start-up fund of about one billion USD to companies initiating searches for entire new classes of antibiotics. The money would be tied to a ban on over marketing any new drugs. Third, doctors must stop routinely giving antibiotics without clear lab-based evidence that they are needed. This will help slow the evolution of new resistant strains. Fourth, the routine use of antibiotics in agriculture must be stopped everywhere.

(Note: as the author of this news report I personally raised nearly 1,000 sheep, cattle, and horses on my organic ranch and only used antibiotics a half dozen times on individual sick animals and never lost an animal to disease.)