Tackling antimicrobial resistance
•Pfizer study shows low knowledge of antimicrobial resistance, commits to providing patent-protected medicines in Africa
•Sponsors largest AMR surveillance programmes, Antimicrobial Testing Leadership and Surveillance (ATLAS) database
It is believed that the discovery of antimicrobials almost 90 years ago changed the course of modern medicine, giving doctors the ability to treat previously fatal infections. Since then, millions of lives have been saved.
Today, bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites are changing and becoming resistant to antimicrobials, like antibiotics, due to overuse and misuse of these medicines. As a result, common infections, like pneumonia, are becoming harder to treat – increasing the risk of disease spread, severe illness and death.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), infections with drug resistant pathogens contribute to almost five million deaths per year. That is to say – every six seconds, one person dies as a result of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), and this number is projected to reach ten million yearly by the year 2050.
Any infection can cause sepsis, the body’s overwhelming response to infection that can lead to tissue damage, organ failure and death. Fighting antimicrobial resistance means working to keep drugs safe and effective against infection and sepsis.
These infections also lead to increased healthcare costs and result in lower productivity. As a result, global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) reductions are estimated at one per cent – three per cent by 2030, further threatening economic development.
AMR is a global crisis, according to the WHO, yet only about half of adults (52 per cent) globally are aware of the term.
Globally, there is low knowledge about AMR. Nearly one-third say they do not know what antimicrobial resistance is and less than half can accurately identify a description of AMR or its effects.
AMR is the ability of germs to fight off the drugs designed to kill them and is currently a serious global health threat. Through overuse and misuse of antimicrobial drugs, the bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites that cause infection and sepsis in humans can more quickly evolve to become resistant to drugs.
Research suggests that antimicrobial usage in animal agriculture leads to resistant infections in humans. In several studies in which antimicrobial usage in animal agriculture was decreased, lower levels of antibiotic-resistant infections in humans were observed.
As part of World Antimicrobial Awareness Week, November 18 – 24, Pfizer and other stakeholders are sounding the alarm for the “Crisis at Our Doorstep” and calling on all sectors to work together to “Act Now on Antimicrobial Resistance to Save Lives.”
A survey conducted by Sepsis Alliance and sponsored by Pfizer, showed that any infection, if left untreated, can lead to sepsis. “Antimicrobial resistance threatens our ability to treat many infections and therefore increases the risk of sepsis to all,” it noted.
Sepsis Alliance conducted the survey to assess international understanding of antimicrobial resistance. Tackling the global problem of antimicrobial resistance requires that people around the world understand what the problem is and what is causing it. Sepsis Alliance plans to use these survey results to target public education efforts toward raising awareness of this serious threat to the health of all people.
The survey was conducted online by Radius Global Market Research on behalf of Sepsis Alliance from January 28 – February 3, 2021, among 6,330 adults, ages 18 and older, in the following countries: Brazil (n = 1,102), China (n=1,063), India (n = 1,055), Spain (n = 1,103), and United States (U.S.) (n = 2,007).
Research funding for this survey was provided by an independent medical education grant from Pfizer. Pfizer Inc. is an American multinational pharmaceutical and biotechnology corporation headquartered on 42nd Street in Manhattan, New York City. Pfizer develops and produces medicines and vaccines for immunology, oncology, cardiology, endocrinology, and neurology.
Radius Global Market Research (www.radius-global.com) is one of the largest independent market-research companies. For more than 50 years, the business has partnered with global marketers to develop insight-based strategies that drive brand performance.
A summary of the survey showed low awareness of AMR and its effects, and suggests there is a great need for public education on the impacts of AMR and what can be done to prevent it, including when it is appropriate to take antibiotics.
According to the WHO and the Pew Charitable Trust, there are currently between 40 and 50 antibiotics in clinical development. Many of these will only bring limited benefits compared to existing treatments. And only a few target Gram-negative bacteria, which are the most dangerous resistant bacteria and can cause severe infections like pneumonia, bloodstream infections or meningitis.
It can take 10-15 years and over $1billion to develop a new antibiotic. To ensure a sustainable pipeline of new drugs, industry, governments and philanthropic organisations need to work together.
To effectively address AMR, experts recommend surveillance, which is a vital tool for clinicians and public health officials to slow the rise of AMR: providing early warning of emerging threats and helping decision-makers intervene before they escalate; and guiding public health policy and infection prevention and control plans.
According to the WHO, Pfizer sponsors one of the largest AMR surveillance programmes in the world – The Antimicrobial Testing Leadership and Surveillance (ATLAS) database.
ATLAS is a fully searchable, interactive, user-friendly website and mobile application that provides free, rapid access – to anyone – to extensive data on emerging bacterial and fungal resistance patterns and sensitivity to antibiotics. Pfizer’s ATLAS programme was highlighted by the 2020 Access to Medicines Benchmark Report on AMR for the “pioneering move” of being the only company to share “not only its results, but also its raw data in the Wellcome Trust’s AMR Register, an open access platform”.
Pfizer, in a statement, said: “Equity is a core Pfizer value that drives our people every single day. We launched An Accord for a Healthier World because all people deserve access to high-quality, safe and effective healthcare solutions.
“An Accord for a Healthier World aims to provide all of Pfizer’s patented, high-quality medicines and vaccines available in the U.S. or the European Union on a not-for-profit basis to 1.2 billion people living in 45 lower-income countries around the world.”
It said the first-ever delivery of nine Pfizer patent-protected medicines and vaccines has been delivered through An Accord for a Healthier World in Rwanda. The shipment included 1,500 treatment packets for life threatening infectious diseases, inflammatory diseases and certain cancers.
Children in low-income countries are 10 times less likely to reach their fifth birthday compared to those in high-income countries. Under the Accord, and with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Pfizer is advancing the development of vaccine candidates for the prevention of Group B Streptococcus—a leading cause of stillbirth and newborn mortality in low-income countries.
Pfizer is also exploring opportunities to support other maternal vaccines, including Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) vaccine development.
Chief Executive Officer and Chairman, Pfizer, Albert Bourla, said: “We are working closely with global health leaders to make improvements in diagnosis, education, infrastructure, storage, and more. Only when all the obstacles are overcome can we end healthcare inequities and deliver for all patients.”
Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates, said: “An Accord for a Healthier World could help millions more people in low-income countries get the tools they need to live a healthy life. Pfizer is setting an example for other companies to follow.”
Meanwhile, the Antimicrobial Resistance Multi-Stakeholder Partnership Platform was inaugurated Monday to ensure the growing threats and impacts of antimicrobial resistance are addressed globally.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the WHO and the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH), known as the Quadripartite are joining forces on this initiative to underscore the threat AMR presents to humans, animals, plants, ecosystems and livelihoods.