Julian leads MPs in lobbying Prime Minister on drug-resistant infection and pandemic planning
August 7, 2020
This week, Julian led a cross-party group of MPs and peers in writing to the Prime Minister, pressing for an enhanced government focus on the huge global challenge of drug-resistant infection, and the associated issue of future pandemic preparedness.
As Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Antibiotics, Julian organised the sending of a joint letter from 35 parliamentarians from the Conservative, Labour, SNP, Liberal Democrat, DUP and Green parties, and Crossbench peers, including 5 former cabinet ministers.
Arising from a recent meeting of the All-Party Group, the letter proposes the appointment of a specific Minister to coordinate all work on this across departments, including Health, the Treasury, Foreign Office, Environment, and Business. This draws on the assessment of many eminent global infection specialists, and the British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, that ongoing work on antibiotics resistance and drug-resistant infection needs to occur in tandem with the policy response to viral pandemics, like coronavirus. A move of this kind would allow the UK to assume more of a leadership role in this international scientific effort, and leverage the expertise of its world-class science and universities sector.
The growth of antibiotic- and drug-resistant infection is one of the greatest threats to global health, having the potential to be even more catastrophic than covid-19, and therefore needs to be tackled well in advance. Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change in response to antibiotics being used against them, and become able to resist the use of these medicines. This means vital medicines for common infectious diseases can just cease to work, meaning these conditions become far harder to treat.
Conditions like TB and pneumonia are already becoming more difficult to treat as antibiotics have become less effective through the spread of resistant bacteria, and everyday operations like hip operations and caesarean sections could become too dangerous to carry out. Already 50,000 deaths each year across Europe and North America are attributed to resistance, and it is projected that 10 million people will die each year across the globe by 2050 unless action is taken.
After despatching the letter to Boris Johnson, Julian said: “The fact such a broad spread of parliamentary colleagues across parties back this call highlights the magnitude of the issue, and I hope the PM carefully considers our suggestions.
Drug-resistant infections and viral pandemics both feature in the World Health Organisation’s list of top ten threats to global health, and the All-Party Antibiotics Group is impressed by the evidence that policy-making on both challenges should be brought together at a high level, building on the good work already ongoing.
Last year, Health Secretary Matt Hancock stepped up the British contribution to the world battle against antibiotics resistance, with a new funding model to incentivise pharmaceutical companies to develop new antibiotics that are effective against resistant bacteria, and a 5-year plan to cut antibiotic-resistant infections in humans by 10%, and it would be brilliant to see this vital work more closely coordinated with viral pandemic planning.
I think the terrible experience of coronavirus has raised public awareness of the need for societies to be ahead of the curve in tackling future public health challenges, and I hope this proposal can be a contribution to this.
I look forward to the Prime Minister’s response.”