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Antibiotic Resistance Threatens Future of Modern Medicine

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The world risks “sleepwalking” towards the end of modern medicine unless urgent action is taken to halt the rise of antibiotic resistance, warns DSM Sinochem Pharmaceuticals (DSP).

Karl Rotthier, DSP’s President, praised the role of Antibiotic Awareness Week and said a concerted global effort was needed to stem the tide of a “post-antibiotic era”, when minor ailments once again become deadly.

He argued that overuse and misuse of antibiotics was one of the key contributors to antimicrobial resistance (AMR) but that the pharmaceutical industry must also accept greater responsibility for driving the solution.

Mr Rotthier said the responsibility was on everyone from patients and doctors to governments and pharmaceutical companies to take immediate steps to ensure that the “legacy of antibiotics as a life-saving medicine is not squandered”.

AMR is now estimated to contribute to more than 25,000 deaths every year and costs more than €1.5 billion in healthcare expenses and productivity losses in Europe alone, according to The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. In the US, the number of deaths through antibiotic resistance is estimated to be around 23,000.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified antibiotic resistance as one of the greatest threats to public health today.

One of the biggest dangers has been the overuse and misuse of antibiotics. This includes patients not completing treatments; using them to treat viral infections, on which they have no effect; and using inappropriate, newer generation antibiotics as a first line of defense, Mr Rotthier said. In many cases of infections, microorganisms are now fully resistant to last resort antibiotics such as carbapenems.

Research suggests that prescribers and patients should revert to older, first generation antibiotics such as amoxicillin, ampicillin, cloxacillin and cephalexin in the first instance; second- and third-generation antibiotics should be preserved as a last line of defense, only when treatment with first generation antibiotics fails, he added.

“At the moment we risk sleepwalking towards the end of medicine as we know it, to an era when something as innocuous as a throat infection becomes a life-threatening condition and when treatments such as transplant surgery become impossible,” Mr Rotthier said.

“The causes of AMR are complicated and interconnected but while our understanding of them is good, progress to tackle them has been too slow and the effects are now a very real and urgent problem.

“It’s important that Antibiotic Awareness Week is more than a seven-day conversation on these challenges but instead a catalyst for long-lasting commitments from patients and doctors to governments and manufacturers to fight AMR.”

Mr Rotthier said that producers must “step up to the plate” and ensure that they adopt the cleanest, most rigorous and sustainable methods available to minimize the environmental impact of producing life-saving medicines and do our utmost to curb the advancement of AMR.