UPDATE 1-Drug firms ask governments to do more in fight against superbugs

Thu Jan 21, 2016 10:18am EST
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(Adds comment from GlaxoSmithKline CEO, more on new market models)

DAVOS, Switzerland Jan 21 (Reuters) - More than 80 international drug and biotech firms urged governments to work with them to combat drug-resistant superbugs which could kill tens of millions of people within decades unless progress is made and new antibiotics found.

In a declaration at the World Economic Forum in Davos, they called for coordinated efforts to cut unnecessary use of antibiotics and support development of new ones, including by creating new economic models and investing in research.

GlaxoSmithKline Chief Executive Andrew Witty said the difficulty of finding new antibiotics was highlighted by the fact that mass screenings of hundreds of millions of chemicals at GSK and two other large firms over nine years had yielded zero potential new drugs.

"That's not because we are all really stupid. It's because it is a really, really difficult space to make progress in," he said in Davos.

The 83 pharmaceutical companies urged governments around the world to commit money "to provide appropriate incentives".

Since new antibiotics will likely be kept in reserve for emergencies, possible new market models could include upfront payments that would delink profits from sales volumes.

Any use of antibiotics promotes the development and spread of so-called superbugs - multi-drug-resistant infections that can evade the medicines designed to kill them.

International alarm about the superbug threat is rising after the discovery in China of a gene called mcr-1 that makes bacteria resistant to all known antibiotics.   Continued...