Health Secretary Matt Hancock has launched the trial of a world-first subscription-style payment system, to incentivise the creation of new antibiotics, alongside a £2 million fund to help raise public awareness on using antibiotics ineffectively.
The new trial will test a ‘subscription’ model that pays pharmaceutical firms upfront for access to drugs based on their usefulness to the NHS. Currently, drugs are paid by volume of antibiotics sold, which incentivises the makers to market them at a time when the NHS is trying to reduce their use to prevent resistance.
The PHE Keep Antibiotics Working campaign, first launched in 2017, has been welcomed by GPs, with 93 per cent of them saying it has supported them in refusing patient requests for antibiotics.
However, GPs claim that the campaign will not make up for the longstanding blame put on GPs for prescribing unnecessary antibiotics. As one commented, while it is a step in the right direction to incentivise the development of new antibiotics, the blame remains, even though it is impossible for GPs to distinguish between viral and bacterial infections in “outdated 10-minute consultations”.
Speaking at the launch, Mr Hancock said that even though there is no greater threat to global health than drug-resistant infections, there have been no major new antibiotic drug classes discovered since the 1980s.
He added that the NHS is in a unique position to become a global leader in testing new payment models, adding that he wants the rest of the world to join the UK in the fight against superbugs.
Rob Cadwallader, General Practice Partner at Milsted Langdon, said: “The future of antibiotics is a key issue for the medical and pharmaceutical industry. It will be interesting to see how the incentives affect the perception and development of antibiotics, as well as their use in the future.
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