Drug-resistance risk demands urgent action
Published 20/05/2016 | 02:30
The prospect of medicine being cast back to the dark ages, where a cut or minor ailment could be fatal, seems like a far-fetched dystopian nightmare. But according to a startling new global study, unless people stop "treating antibiotics like sweets", they could become next to useless. Jim O'Neill, who led the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, has called for a global revolution to protect the potency of such medicines.
Already superbugs, resistant to antimicrobials, kill 700,000 people a year - but unless a radical change in usage takes place, they could be killing up to 10 million people annually within the next four decades.
The study suggests that drug companies must lead from the front in the race to produce a new range of antibiotics capable of neutralising the threat of superbugs.
But the report also says that responsibility falls on patients, doctors and even governments - and all involved in the healthcare industry - to abandon their "comfort zone" when it comes to using or abusing antibiotics through over-prescription.
Companies that refuse to invest in research and development should be hit where it hurts with a surcharge.
The growing threat of multi-drug-resistant infections that evade normal antibiotics has not been confronted; unless we combat it, the consequences could be catastrophic.
Reducing the unnecessary use of antibiotics must be a priority, along with a far more vigorous approach to increasing the supply of new ones.
As the father of medicine, Hippocrates, said: "As to diseases, make a habit of two things - to help, or at least, to do no harm." Our current approach to antibiotics fails on both counts.