Pharmaceutical companies are being told they must invest more in new antibiotics or risk being blamed for an increase in deaths from drug-resistant superbugs. A report by former Chief Economist Jim O'Neill says drug resistence will cost the global economy $100 trillion over 35 years and cause 10 million deaths, Katie Gregory has more.
It's been almost 30 years since an entirely new class of antibiotics was discovered... Which is why our bodies are becoming immune to them. A new report warns pharmaceuticals companies they could end up shouldering the blame for a massive increase in deaths from drug-resistant superbugs. Former Chief Economist, Jim O'Neill, is the report's author and says companies need to invest more in antibiotics. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ANTI-MICROBIAL RESISTANCE REVIEW AUTHOR, JIM O'NEILL, SAYING; "We're estimating that the cost of that could be as low as $16bln over 10 years or as high as $37bln. Seen in a global context and compared to the cost of inaction it's actually peanuts." The review, backed by the British government, found drug resistance could see 10 million deaths by 2050 - and cost the global economy $100tln. BUT Antibiotics aren't profitable... Pharmaceutical companies still have to answer to shareholders - and at the moment they make more money developing cancer drugs and other so-called exotic medicines. Jane Foley is from Rabobank. (SOUNDBITE) (English) RABOBANK, SENIOR CURRENCY STRATEGIST, JANE FOLEY, SAYING; "It's inevitable that they do have to try and boost their profitability that is the framework. We could change this framework by making them potentially privatised companies but then of course we enter into a very political domain. So maybe a compromise would be for some degree of government incentive." Jim O'Neill is suggesting government's reward any company who creates a successful new antibiotic - but that means they still have to foot the bill for initial development. He's also calling on the industry to establish a $2bln innovation fund. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ANTI-MICROBIAL RESISTANCE REVIEW AUTHOR, JIM O'NEILL, SAYING; "At one level you would imagine global financial institutions or let's say the G20 nations would share that cost on some kind of GDP adjusted basis between them. On another level it may well be that the pharma industry itself is expected to provide a lot of that financing." GlaxoSmithKline and Swiss company Roche say they'll look at the recommendations, without committing to any specific funding. But O'Neill has likened the crisis to the lead up to financial crash in 2008 when banks ignored their social responsibilities.